Yarmouth schools set budget schedule, prepare for reduced funding

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YARMOUTH — School officials are working to find savings and plan for the future in light of a nearly $520,000 reduction in state funding this year and an estimated $1.2 million reduction in fiscal 2011.

Superintendent of Schools Judy Paolucci said the schools have nearly made up this year’s funds by reducing spending and using reserves.

She said a state curtailment order was expected, so a freeze on spending of all but essential school items was implemented early in the school year. In addition, she placed a freeze on all school field trips except those sponsored by outside funding, grants or parent contributions.

The district also used $85,000 in contingency funds and did not fill a few vacant administrative and teaching positions.

“With a lot of hard work, we are close to making up the loss from the curtailment,” Paolucci said. “We are now in the process of working through the 2010-2011 school budget.”

In order to prepare for the expected $1.2 million reduction next year, Paolucci said the committee has found many natural ways to limit spending and find savings.

Thanks to lower interest rates, savings have been found in debt service. Teacher retirements have helped reduce the budget, and based on student population trends, staffing and special education needs can also be reduced, Paolucci said.

“There are unexpected expenditures and savings every year,” she said. “One year fuel prices can go up and another year state funding can be reduced. We have to be prepared and creative.”

One way the School Committee planned for the upcoming budget shortfall was to put aside nearly $420,000 from federal funds into a reserve account to help pad the 2011 budget. 

The assignment of the funds into a reserve account for school purposes was approved by voters at Town Meeting last June.

Budget process

The development of the 2010-2011 fiscal budget started in September with the School Committee’s program review work – a way for the committee to prioritize the needs of the school system from a long-range perspective, Paolucci said.

“During the planning process we consider all possibilities,” she said. “The Town Council wants to see a zero percent increase on expenditures, and we will work diligently to accommodate the request.”

This year’s budget process will formally begin Thursday, Jan. 28, with a budget overview at 7 p.m. in the Log Cabin on Main Street. Workshop sessions will begin Tuesday, Feb. 2, at the Rowe School at 7 p.m. and Tuesday, Feb. 9, at the Log Cabin at 7 p.m. Final school budget adoption will be at 7 p.m. at the Log Cabin on Thursday, Feb. 25.

Paolucci said she hopes the community is involved throughout the budget process and understands the work that goes into creating a successful school budget.

“Every year it is a different process, and this year has been a challenge” she said. “We start very early to make it fair for everyone involved.”

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or [email protected]