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School Committee Certifies an 8.47 Percent Budget Increase for FY 2012

In an effort to keep a level service budget, The Mendon-Upton School Committee certified a $28,399,919 budget at their March 21 meeting held at the Nipmuc Auditorium. To fund the current level of services in fiscal year 2012 the schools are requesting a $2,216,714 increase or 8.47 percent from fiscal year 2011.

School Committee member Heather Applegate and chair of the budget subcommittee presented a PowerPoint presentation to the 80-member audience. Superintendent Antonio Fernandes noted that this budget does not make any significant changes, saying, "What you see today, you will see tomorrow."

He did note that in order to have a level-service budget the two towns will be required to give more than their minimum contribution. Mendon will be asked to fund $7,133.588, which is $927,988 more. Upton will be asked to fund $8,645,607, which is $1,252,967 more. Fernandes said School Committee members have been working with town officials and he is optimistic this number will be funded.

Applegate explained in the presentation that the increase in the 2012 budget results primarily from three line items -- transportation is up 12 percent, healthcare 14.5 percent, and heating oil 50 percent. Applegate also said that over the years the State is giving less in educational aid and the towns are required to give more. In the FY12 budget the towns will be contributing 53 percent of the budget while the State funding is 41 percent.

Applegate noted in the presentation that over the past three years 57.5 positions in the district have been cut. She added that despite the low per pupil expenditures in fiscal 2010 Nipmuc ranked 22 out of 342 schools in their MCAS scores.

The School Committee is looking for ways to cut costs. They're hoping to launch a new behavior program for a number of students currently in the district and for those in out-of-district placement. This new program will provide needed services for these students within the schools avoiding out of district costs and fees.

Also helping cut costs was the vote by the Mendon-Upton Regional Teachers Association to accept a new one-year contract on March 14, which will freeze their wages. The teachers passed a memorandum of agreement for the one-year contract, which stipulates that they will not receive any step increases, Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) or lane changes.

One concerned parent asked what the budget will look like if the two towns can not fund the entire amount. Fernandes explained this would result in a $1.2 million dollar reduction if the district did not receive full funding. He noted that class size would rise to 30+ students per classroom, similar to what was projected to happen in the district last year before the federal stimulus funds through the jobs bill was awarded in August.

Fernandes added the district will not know what the 2011-12 school will look like until May when Upton and Mendon will have their Annual Town Meetings.

Other concerned parents inquired about the current Spanish Immersion program. Officials stated that there will be no change to that program. It will continue to be a multi-age classroom.

Fernandes, at a previous meeting, did ask School Committee members to open up school choice in kindergarten for regular education and Spanish due to low enrollment numbers. At this point no decision on school choice has been made.

The School Committee will meet again on April 4.


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