FY25 Budget Leveraged by Bus Deal

            After a budget public hearing held on March 21, the Mattapoisett School Committee voted its recommendation of the FY25 school budget as presented for voters’ consumption at the May 13 Annual Town Meeting.

            Old Rochester Superintendent of School Mike Nelson told the committee that a major driver of the budget process this year was the negotiation of a new bus contract that in FY25 will cost Mattapoisett taxpayers $714,225. Amaral will remain ORR’s and Mattapoisett’s bus company, but the costs are impactfully pricier than they were when the contract was being extended at $525,500 on a year-by-year basis.

            In his opening remarks, Nelson thanked Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Howie Barber, Budget Subcommittee member Jim Muse, Town Administrator Mike Lorenco and Finance Committee member Colby Rottler for their work in sharing information that he said helped ORR form a “strong, level-services budget” for presentation to the Mattapoisett School Committee.

            As proposed by the superintendent, the FY25 operation budget total of $8,064,433 is estimated to be a 4.146% ($321,009) increase over the FY24 budget of $7,743,424.

            General funds are applied to: Academics, Student Services, Facilities, Technology and Transportation.

            Center School is allotted $3,097,959 and Old Hammondtown $2,481,797, with $855,561 going to Facilities, $714,225 to Transportation, $439,634 to Student Services, $274,018 to Central Office and $201,239 to Technology.

            The Central Office figure referenced ORR’s Core Literacy program, as Nelson publicly reinforced the district’s priority on reading skills.

            State aid overall will increase 1.14% (from $1,005,221 to $1,016,711).

Barber identified a 7.49% decrease in FY25 (the 2024-25 school year) enrollment (from 414 to 383 students).

            It will cost $130,618 in FY25 for Mattapoisett to send three students to Bristol County Agricultural High School in Dighton. That expenditure consists of $67,769 in tuition, $17,939 in the town’s share of debt service for a construction project at Bristol Aggie, and $44,910 in transportation.

            Budget offsets of $378,307 include $241,582 for Student Services, $116,725 for Center School and $10,000 each for Old Hammondtown and Facilities.

            Sources for grant funding and other special revenues come from a $191,582 Circuit Breaker, ORR’s School Choice program ($70,000), The IDEA Grant ($100,725), facility rentals ($10,000), and the EEC Grant ($6,000).

            These offsets are most notably applied to tuition collaboratives ($166,582) and Special Education ($100,725).

            Committee Chairperson Carly Lavin acknowledged the budget challenges for this year but stressed the importance of keeping a reading specialist on staff, something the FY25 accomplished.

            After a comment section with the committee – clarification on Bristol Aggie yielded the fact Mattapoisett has no options to avoid paying $130,618 to send three student there – Lavin sought comment from the public (there was none), and the public hearing was closed.

            Together with the $130,618 approved for Bristol Aggie, the total approved was $8,195,051 for FY25. The vote was 5-0 unanimously in favor.

            The committee took separate votes to approve the new bus contract and to approve a $70,000 transfer from the revolving account.

            In her Chairperson’s Report, Lavin expressed appreciation for the diligent work of the ORR administration in a challenging budget process. Lavin also noted recent activities in Mattapoisett schools, from basketball to an arts and sciences show she called “fabulous.”

            In other business, the committee approved the FY24 Safe and Supportive Schools Continuation Fund of $10,000 (grant). ORR is looking at the grant as a source to fund the Responsive Classroom and in the long view is looking to establish curriculum for social/emotional learning.

            The committee approved the READS Collaborative Agreement Amendment to add Brockton and Whitman-Hanson as members.

            Student Collin Nashold was on hand to present a donation of an author-autographed set (Books 1-10) of the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series; the books were donated by Collin Nashold and his mother Kimberly Nashold. Old Hammondtown Principal Kevin Tavares noted that the original plan was to display the books, but that Collin insisted the books be put into circulation. Muse made the approval motion, the committee enthusiastically agreed, and they applauded Collin Nashold for his deed.

            The next meeting of the Mattapoisett School Committee is scheduled for Thursday, May 2, at 6:30 pm at Center School and via Zoom.

Mattapoisett School Committee

By Mick Colageo

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