Budget Discussed Bellingham School Committee's April 13 Meeting
The Bellingham School Committee presented a $24,793,397 budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2018 at the April 13 budget presentation and subsequent School Committee meetings. The fiscal year begins on July 1, 2017, and runs through June 30, 2018.
According to the presentation given by School Superintendent Peter Marano, the budget number represents a $690,000 (2.9%) increase over the previous budget. The largest increases are due to over $500,000 in contractual salary increases and close to $200,000 in Special Education costs. Salaries account for 82% of the entire budget, according to Marano.
Marano announced several initiatives being undertaken in areas of technology, professional development and curriculum.
The district plans to implement a 1:1 technology plan and Google Classroom for sixth-grade math and all seventh-grade classrooms, allowing each student access to technology within the classrooms. Google Classroom is an interactive program between teachers and students to post lessons, announcements, schedules and grades.
The district has increased the number of professional development half-days from three this year to seven for the 2017-18 school year.
Bellingham will undertake several initiatives to further align the curriculum in each grade to match state benchmarks and to align the curriculum across each grade level. Marano said that their goal is "to develop aligned, rigorous, standard-based units of instruction at all grade levels and content areas to create a comprehensive college and career ready K-12 curriculum.”
The presentation also discussed potential increases in transportation costs for both regular buses and out-of-district special education transportation.
Marano's presentation further provided charts depicting state funding to Bellingham for education and the district's per pupil expenditures.
In FY09 Bellingham saw a significant drop in Chapter 70 education aid from the state, from $8.2 million to $7.6 million, a $600,000 reduction. Although that rebounded in FY10 to $8.3 million, another significant reduction was taken in FY11, reducing state funding to $7.9 million, a $400,000 cut. The following years showed small increases until through FY17, with the funding at $8.4 million.
However, throughout all these years, fixed expenditures such as contractually obligated salary increases and utility costs have continued to rise, leaving deficits in the non-fixed portions of the school budget. These sections cover district educational initiatives, professional development, extracurricular activities, behavioral programs, etc.
The presentation also noted that the amount of per-pupil spending for the district has fallen below the state average by about $1,500 per student in recent years. The last year shown is 2015, when Bellingham spent $13,220 per student, while the state average was $14,936.
Marano noted that the district has strived to keep class sizes low. Elementary school class sizes are anticipated to fall between 16 and 20 students. In grades 5-12, class sizes should average 22 students.
The budget will go before town residents at the Town Meeting on June 13 at 7:30 P.M. at Bellingham High School.