Falmouth school budget calls for nearly 12% increase

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FALMOUTH — Superintendent of Schools Barbara Powers said her $29.3 million budget proposal is not the “spending bonanza” the 11.93 percent increase implies.

Powers said the first debt payment on the new elementary school accounts for 5.15 percent of the increase proposed under the budget presented to the School Board last week. The first principal payment is $1.89 million. 

The remaining 6.8 percent spending increase is the result of a loss in federal grant revenue and state Medicaid reimbursements, negotiated salary increases and higher enrollment, Powers said. 

The proposed budget is $3.1 million more than the current $26.2 million budget. It will add 70 cents to the property tax rate of $12.92 per $1,000 assessed value if no changes are made by the School Board or Town Council.

The annual tax bill would increase $210 on a $300,000 home.

“We’ve tried to be as conservative as possible,” Powers said. 

The town is expecting a $1.9 million increase in state education funds. More than $1.5 million of the district’s anticipated $7.49 million total in state aid is debt service on Falmouth Elementary School and will not go toward operating expenses. 

Powers said she encourages people to consider the first elementary school debt payment outside the proposed operating budget because the project was approved by taxpayers. 

“Frankly, we’re to the bone in a lot of ways,” she said of the budget that includes no new programs and adds one seventh-grade teacher to reduce large class sizes. 

The budget also includes requests for additional hours for teachers and staff needed to accommodate students with special needs. Powers said 18 of the district’s 50 new students have some level of special need. 

Finance Director Dan O’Shea said the regular budget must absorb a loss of $650,000 from the Federal Jobs Bill grant and state revisions to Medicaid reimbursement. The revenue loss adds 3.03 percent in operating costs as positions are absorbed into the fiscal 2013 budget. 

Additional factors in the spending increase are a 2.25 percent negotiated contract increase for teachers and 50 additional students, O’Shea said. 

O’Shea noted the budget reflects a savings of $85,000 from the middle school heat conversion to a wood chip boiler. 

The Town Council is reviewing an $11 million municipal budget proposed by Town Manager Nathan Poore. It calls for a 3 percent spending increase while, for the fourth consecutive year, adding nothing to the tax rate. 

The Town Council and School Board will hold a joint budget meeting at 3 p.m. Tuesday, March 27, at Town Hall. A public hearing on school and municipal budgets is slated for April 11 on the school campus. 

The Town Council is expected to vote on the budgets April 23. A school budget referendum will be held June 12. 

Gillian Graham can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or ggraham@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @grahamgillian.

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