October 14 2020

School Committee Approves $350K in Budget Cuts Due to Deficit

By: Rich Hosford

The Burlington School Committee voted to approve a number of budget cuts to help the town balance its budget on Tuesday. 


As reported on BNEWS, the town is facing a $2.1 million budget deficit in FY21 due to a drop in local receipts from sources including hotel/motel taxes, meal taxes and building permits. A majority of that is being made up from a reduction of spending in accommodated accounts but there is still $700,000 that needs to come from the town and school budgets, split evenly between the two. These measures were approved by Town Meeting in September. 


During Tuesday evening’s School Committee meeting Superintendent Eric Conti and School Business Manager Nicole Coscia gave an overview of where the department is looking to make cuts. First, however, they gave an update on where the school budget is at this time. Coscia said that as of right now, with the $350,000 in cuts, the department is projecting to have roughly $200,000 left over at the end of the year. Normally, Conti added, at this time of year they project about $1 million left over. 


“If this were a normal year, this is the time we’d be talking about freezing the budget,” Conti said. “But we can’t say that now because we don't know what is going to happen next week. $200,000 is not a healthy balance for this district, it’s a number that’s concerning.”


That being said they outlined where they are planning to make cuts. Perhaps fortunately in many areas this was aided by changes already in place due to the pandemic. For example they are reducing the stipends paid to teachers for running after school activities and similar things by $129,979 by cancelling some programs. While they are attempting to keep as many going as possible due to social distancing some were already going to be cancelled.  


They also reduced clerical salaries by $47,953 by merging some positions, at a higher level, and having existing employees retire. 


They were also able to save money in reduced transportation costs. Since the elementary schools are getting out mid-day they no longer have to have an extra bus run for the kindergarten students who always get out for lunch. Also, there are no buses being used for sports. They are also not running a late bus at the high school. Those three items saved an estimated $38,868. 


Other savings come from not having vision and hearing screenings and just by having 10 fewer days in the school year. 


Members of the School Committee said they supported the proposed cuts for this year but emphasized the need to have the funds back in the budget for FY22. 


There was also a question as to whether what is being cut may change in the future, to which Superintendent Conti said it was possible but these were their best ideas of how to proceed at the time. 


“We wanted to give you concrete real reductions,” he said. “The recommendations might change but we wanted to say where they were coming from as specifically as we possibly could.”

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