23 Aug 2014
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Squeeze Put on School Budget Boost

Barrington School Committee starts off building a new budget with increases in pension and health insurance costs that wipe out the expected boost in state aid.

Squeeze Put on School Budget Boost

A “strategic reallocation of resources” may be necessary to come up with a budget for Barrington’s schools next year that fits under the 4 percent state cap for an increase in spending.

School Committee Vice Chairman Scott Fuller used that phrase last Thursday evening, Jan. 19, to sum up his budget thinking so far.

Superintendent Robert McIntyre said coming up with a budget under the 4 percent cap “is going to be a challenge” that may require some “tradeoffs.”

The FY 2011-2012 school budget is about $43.38 million, with about 87 percent going toward salaries and benefits for staff. McIntyre referred to staff when he talked about a challenge.

“We will have to look at all positions as we build a budget with limited resources,” he said.

School Committee member Robert Shea asked the administration to come up with all the “offsets” that the board must consider to come up with a new budget.

School Committee member Kate Brody said she wants to know “how our decisions will impact students. We need the data.”

Fuller added: “I hope we can fund some of the new initiatives -- at least partially,” such as the school principals’ request for math coaches.

But the budget numbers in late January did not make the School Committee smile last week.

Ron Tarro, assistant superintendent for administration and finance, said the school department faces a $900,000 increase in pension and health insurance costs that must be plugged into any new budget.

“There should be a boost in state aid of around $600,000," he said, referring to the current school funding formula.

But that increase doesn’t even cover the hike in pension and health insurance costs.

“Before we start discussions,” Tarro said, “we have an almost a 2.3 percent boost in spending” that “will push us up against the 4 percent limit.”

To fund any new initiative, such as math specialists, he said: “We will have to use current staff.”

The School Committee also faces approximately $3 million for health and safety improvements to the middle school. That translates into a $1.8 million cost for Barrington taxpayers with the state reimbursement of 40 percent.

The cost of those improvements will come from either capital reserves or bonds, Tarro said, not next year’s operating budget. But that expense cannot be overlooked when considering the cost of operating the schools.

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