New Grafton School Budget Facing Large Gap

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Superintendent of Grafton schools, James Cummings, outlined his 2014 school budget concerns. Photo Credit: Richard Price

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.

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Comments (19)

AladdinsLamp:

Reading between the lines here, I think Dr. Jay is improving upon his Superintendent skill set.
This bodes well for our school system, no matter what the budget process may bring.

grommit:

Yes, it would be interesting to see how the original student projections worked out.
Lowest teacher pay? Is this because we have teachers with fewer years in the classroom? Or is it because we have a lower pay scale?
Will we still have the sixth lowest per pupil expenditure now that the new high school has come on line?
Can we save that custodian position if we have the students sweep and dust their classrooms. Geez...imagine that. Hey parents...,maybe that behavior would carry over to their room at home. Oh boy.
Do we still subscribe to that virtual online training @ $5K per kid? Recent news reports say it is not as successful as brick-and-mortar schools.
Finally, it would really be cool if we could examine the school budget, line by line, as we do for the Municipal budget.

Chris L.:

Idea: Get the students of a Grafton high school math or business class to look at the budget as an assignment. Each student could compete with their classmates to develop the best proposed budget solution. Then the suggestions could be passed along to the town. This could be a great real-world learning opportunity, and it would encourage civic engagement.

grommit:

ChrisL: excellent idea.

doglover4:

Grafton, sixth lowest per pupil expenditure in the state. The lowest teacher pay of all the surrounding towns. Yet Grafton test scores are in the upper third in the state. I say that's bang for your dollar. I am not saying the schools need everything but if you want to keep your property values, you need to support the schools. Do you guys really think Grafton is going to stay the same forever? Go over the schools personnel you will be hard pressed to find extra people.

doglover4:

John B. I didn't understand your comment. Please explain in more detail.

John B:

Our President's stimulus package gave Billion to cities, towns, and states, including Grafton. So instead of cutting back on spending and Grafton laying teachers off, even when more students were entering school. The Federal stimulus prevented layoffs from happening. Unemployment would have been much worse without this intervention.
From high school economics: One person's spending is another's income. These teachers paid their mortgages, bought food, made car repairs. This ripple effect kept houses in shape, kept stop and shop in business, and also car dealerships.
Now that the stimulus is over Grafton has to step up and pay the money instead of the Federal government.

Chris L.:

We took money from the feds, and now we can't do without them... and that's the way they like it.

Mr. Ed:

Except the Feds didn't have the money, so they borrowed it. Unsustainable.

John B:

If the USA is such a bad risk why is it so cheap for them to borrow money?
The economy is growing and keeping people employed.
The Dow Jones Industrial average is up 9.8% from Jan 1st to today. In 3 years it is up 26.91%
That is one of the reasons it is easy for Uncle Sam to borrow money.

Chris L.:

Totally.

John B:

The town did not have to raise taxes to keep paying the teachers salaries.

bubbly:

"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" - WHAT? Where are these numbers coming from? Didn't we hear all this before the vote on building a new school? How did those numbers turn out? I want to find the crystal ball he's using.
Secondly - who is the 'town nurse'????? and why do we have/pay for a 'town nurse'??? and if the town is paying for a nurse, she should be expected to 'help out at times' - wake up people, the gravy train is drying up!

Mr. Ed:

well, if there is a bubble of student population moving through the school system, one would think that there would then be fewer teachers needed at the lower levels. Maybe they could shift some resources ... what a concept!

John B:

And people say the Federal stimulus was not helping.
Grafton got over 1/2 million. How many teachers is that?

over_taxxed:

About one office renovation..

bubbly:

or half of a football field! Also, what does stimulus money have to do with hiring a teacher? Why would a teacher (or teachers) be hired with found money? We could add head count to the employment rolls, and then when the stimulus money is gone, we can raise taxes to cover them - you have to admit, it's a pretty cool scheme.

John B:

It is not hiring teachers but keeping the on the job.

bubbly:

Not to split hairs here, but what's the difference between keeping them on the job with fake money, or laying them off to 'save' money? That's like the difference between raising taxes or allowing the tax cuts to expire - no matter how you say it, it's still taking money out of our pockets - keeping them on the job now, means paying more for them later.
Humbug - decrease the excess population!

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