GRAFTON, Mass. – Creating the 2014 fiscal budget for Grafton schools will be difficult without outside stimulus money, Superintendent James Cummings said Monday as he unveiled his development ideas to school committee members.
He outlined seven variables that will come in play but two would create the greatest challenge: how to manage more students while also looking at shrinking state and federal funding.
“If there are no stimulus dollars in fiscal year 2014,” Cummings said, “then it will be a tremendous challenge to us.”
He predicts a 7 percent increase in the school population by 2015, with the high school seeing 163 more students in the classroom, a 22 percent jump. But he also said that stimulus funding, which added over $552,000 to the 2012 budget, will drop to zero if the federal government drives the country off the so-called “fiscal cliff.”
Budget gaps have been a large topic of conversation on Beacon Hill. On Dec. 4, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick outlined a plan to close a $540 million budget gap. He said the uncertainty of the fiscal cliff and the slowdown of economic growth contribute.
Regardless, Cummings said in order to maintain the current level of service to the student body — that is holding on to existing educational programs and also keep healthy student to teacher ratios — his new budget proposal will need to create 12 new positions including two full-time teachers in special education, an additional full-time janitor, and three full-time teachers at the high school.
The school system also needs one and a half additional full-time nurses. At Millbury Street Elementary, which has the largest student population at the elementary level, Cummings said the need is especially acute. “Right now,” he said, “We are using the town nurse to help out at times.”
The school committee will meet again on Jan. 14 with the full preliminary budget recommendation, followed by a budget hearing on Jan. 28.