The 1/15/19 School Committee meeting focused on the Operating Budget for FY20 with a consultation with the Town Manager and a Public Hearing. There was also an update on the Athletic Program.
FY20 Budget Consultation with Town Manager
Kate Fitzpatrick, Town Manager, and David Davison, Asst. Town Manager, presented information on budget principles and priorities to the School Committee. Priorities include:
Increasing and improving methods of public communication by adding new position
Expanding the season of the Parks and Rec programs
Public Safety, especially with the growth of commercial and residential population
Health and Family Services, including clearing program waitlists at Youth and Family Services, and more programming at the Senior Center.
In response to questions, the Town Manager also discussed pedestrian safety efforts and additional funding that will be used for priority areas, some that are near public schools.
Public Hearing and Presentation on FY20 Budget
Supt. Gutekanst presented the FY20 budget. Budget priorities include opening the Williams School, funding Full-Day Kindergarten, and furthering equity and achievement for all students. The FY20 budget requests a 7.5% increase, consistent with a usual request of around 5% for contractual salary increases, level service, and modest program improvements, PLUS the additional costs for opening a new school that has nearly double the square footage of the school it is replacing, plus programming and staffing for full day kindergarten. The plan includes 22 sections of kindergarten, with a teacher and full-time teaching assistant in each class.
During the Public Hearing, numerous parents, community members, and a representative from the Needham Education Association commented in support of the FY20 budget proposal, and in particular the implementation of full-day kindergarten.
Athletic Program Update and Budget Discussion
Dan Lee, Athletic Director, and other representatives from Needham High School showed an inspiring video of the wide range of sports opportunities for students. He discussed the Unified Sports Program during 2017-18, where students with and without disabilities participated together on a track and field team and a basketball team.
The athletics budget was discussed. Currently, program revenues are not keeping pace with expenses. Information was presented comparing Needham to other districts in terms of percent of revenues from operating budget vs student fees, as well as breadth of program choices. Per pupil expenses seem in-line, but Needham has a higher reliance on student fees. A multi-pronged plan to restore sustainability was proposed, that would increase funding from the district’s operating budget, increase student fees modestly, and increase specific sport surcharges modestly. School Committee members affirmed the diversity of programing and asked to see more information about how many students are participating in the programs. The decline in the Needham Boosters funding for fee waivers was also discussed, in the face of rising needs, especially as the middle school sports programs have grown.