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Mendon Upton FY15 Budget to Increase by $1.1M

The Mendon Upton Regional School Committee certified a $29,689,486 budget for the Fiscal Year 2015 school year during the March 17 Open Budget Hearing; a budget that represents a $1,132,202, or 3.96 percent increase over FY14.

Superintendent Dr. Joseph Maruszczak presented the FY15 budget during the meeting, calling it "a level-services budget with three targeted investments." The new budget will ask for a $200,000 increase in local contributions from the two towns; an additional $165,364 (2.37 percent) from Mendon and an additional $34,636 (0.40 percent) from Upton. At a previous School Committee Meeting, Maruszczak stated that the discrepancy between the two towns has to do with the formula for required local contribution which takes into account aggregate property values and aggregate personal income levels.

Along with an increased contribution from the towns, Maruszczak said that the district will be using $700,000 from the district's E&D (Excess and Deficiency) Account and $125,000 from the revolving account to fund a large portion of the $1.1million increase. Maruszczak said that the new budget also included a projected increase of $59,000 in Chapter 70 Aid and $30,000 in Transportation reimbursement for FY15.

Maruszczak detailed some of the drivers for the rise in the budget, such as an increase in salaries (contracts are still in negotiation) and transportation costs, and an increase in the Professional Development and Buildings and Grounds line items. Maruszczak said that the budget also includes three "targeted investments" that are based on goals from the district's new Strategic Plan that was approved last May. He stated the goals are to "maintain the forward momentum the district has gained in the past and current fiscal years," "to enhance and improve programming in the MURSD through targeted investments," and "to continue to maximize efficiencies in light of the current fiscal reality at the local, state, and federal level."

The three investments in the new budget include enhancing the district's technology, adding a Technology Integration Specialist to the district staff, and investing money into the High School's athletic program to defray the "costly" user fees.

The first new investment, to enhance technology, is budgeted at $197,000, specifically in the area of the 1:1 iPad initiative, including upgrades to the bandwidth and security software at the high school, rolling out the 1:1 iPad initiative at the high school, and purchasing e-textbooks for both the high school and middle school. Other technology infrastructure investments would include digital projectors and SmartBoards in the district's school buildings.

The second new investment is budgeted at $70,000, salary and health insurance, for the addition of a district Technology Integration Specialist. The position would be split between Miscoe Hill and Nipmuc Regional High Schools working with the teachers on the new 1:1 iPad initiative. "I see this as a key role in the 1:1 iPad initiative so it can truly flourish at the middle and high school levels," he said.

The third new investment of $70,000 would be used to defray the "high expense" of athletic user fees at Nipmuc. Maruszczak said that the current user fee structure at the high school is the highest in the Blackstone Valley. Currently, families pay a user fee of $325, $375, or $425 depending on the sport, with no family cap. As a comparison, Maruszczak pointed out that students at Valley Tech pay $30 per sport, with other neighboring towns charging $75-$200 per sport, most with a family cap. Maruszczak said that this $70,000 investment would allow fees to be lowered by approximately $50 per sport, but will also allow the district to create a family cap. "This is a step in the right direction," he said.

Maruszczak summarized his presentation, stating that the proposed budget included the "same staff, programs, and services that are currently in place with three targeted investments commensurate with the Strategic Plan."

The School Committee quickly certified the proposed budget after there were no questions or comments from the audience. The budget will now go to the two towns for approval during their Annual Town Meetings, which are held in early May.


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