GRAFTON, Mass.—The School committee unanimously approved a $26.74 million school budget for fiscal year 2014 during Monday night’s meeting paving the way for a Board of Selectmen vote on Tuesday.
Town Administrator Timothy McInerney, who also attended, said Superintendent James Cumming’s numbers were “fully supported in my budget” and will do everything he can despite the new fiscal realities from Beacon Hill.
“I certainly believe if we could do more we would do more,” he said to the committee.
The budget proposal, a 7.7 percent increase from 2013, is driven by a number of factors:
• Rising enrollment in special education, which translates into expensive state-mandated services;
• An increase in utility and building maintenance costs, which Cummings said were delayed last year but must be addressed in 2014 to protect the taxpayers' investment in the new high school;
• With district enrollment projected to increase by 232 students in three years, there is a need for an additional three full-time teachers to maintain a healthy student-teacher ratio;
• The need for a half-time school nurse at Millbury Street Elementary, which has the largest elementary grade population;
• A full-time social worker is also needed for the district, which Cummings said will be partially funded with a grant.
McInerney said one of the biggest hurdles he needs to address in the budget proposal is health insurance costs. “There are eight new hires in this budget which is an insurance impact on us,” he said adding that premium costs account for about 9 percent of the town’s $40 million budget.
Preliminary Chapter 70 funding to Grafton, was a slight increase from last year. But Beacon Hill has not completed the legislative process so no one is certain what the final number will be.
McInerney said after he presents the 2014 town budget to the board of selectmen, it will then be presented to the finance committee on Wednesday.