Budget Concludes, Lunch Policy Imminent

The fiscal year 2015 budget that Superintendent Doug White presented to the committee and to the public on March 5 has come a long way since its first draft back in January, which initially sought a half million-dollar increase from FY14.

With the budget now at $5,068,265 – a mere $25,926 above FY14 – the Marion School Committee showed little concern and asked no questions about the final draft budget after White’s presentation. The committee will likely vote to approve the budget next month during its April 2 meeting.

“So, what drives the budget?” White posed the question.

For starters, salary increases, contractual obligations, and one retirement will account for some of the increase in spending. There is also a rise in students attending Bristol County Agricultural High School, which has increased its tuition.

There is also a need for additional paraprofessional staff in the kindergarten and for special education support, something for which grant funding is steadily shrinking.

The school also needs to purchase a new reading curriculum to align itself with the Commonwealth’s new Common Core of Standards.

The cost of offsetting these increases will be reductions to FTEs (full time equivalent) for professional staff, including a reduction in force of 0.5 FTE in Enrichment, and a slight decrease of 0.1 FTE in physical education. Other positions, such as psychological services and the building technology position, will be restructured to further offset costs.

There is also a significant reduction in special education services for students, both in the district and with out-of-district placements, to the tune of $76,000.

In other news, as for the FY14 budget, White said during his financial report to the committee, “Overall, the budget is healthy and in good shape.”

Two areas of concern mentioned were Bristol Aggie tuition, which currently has a negative balance of $19,860, and Paraprofessional Services, which has a deficit of about $4000. White stated that a couple of budget transfers would cover the two line items in the foreseeable future.

Also during the meeting, Director of Food Services Caitlin Meagher updated committee members on the status of delinquent accounts, prompting committee members to wonder what to do after hearing that just four students accounted for over $400 of the $641 in delinquent accounts, split among 64 students.

Meagher referred to Sippican School as “the tricky school” when it came down to collecting money from parents with delinquent accounts.

“It’s getting rather excessive,” said Meagher. She said she sends an email every Tuesday to the parents with overdue balances, which brings in a slight influx of money on Wednesdays, but not by much.

The Marion School Committee, although it had discussed and drafted a policy in the past to deal with delinquent accounts, never officially adopted a lunch account policy.

To avoid excessive debts from incurring, Committee Member Christine Winters suggested the school provide a smaller, alternate lunch for students with delinquent accounts, “Because no child will go hungry,” she stated.

When asked if the parents of the four significantly higher account balances have applied for free or reduced lunch, Meagher replied, “They have not, and they will not.”

The next Marion School Committee meeting is April 2 at 6:30pm at the Marion Town House.

By Jean Perry


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