School Committee slates budget hearing

WESTFIELD – The School Committee has scheduled an April 23 public hearing to present the proposed 2013 fiscal year budget. The 6:30 p.m. hearing will be conducted at the South Middle School.
Mayor Daniel M. Knapik said he is collaborating with School Superintendent Suzanne Scallion and Financial Officer John Kane on the department’s 2013 budget.
“We are working on the budget with a target date of May 17 to go before the City Council, so we have four weeks to get a budget you approve,” Knapik said to the School Committee members Monday night.
Committeewoman Cindy Sullivan, chairwoman of the Finance Subcommittee, slated a committee meeting for April 30, a week after the public hearing, to give members time to review the proposed budget numbers.
The budget, as revised by the Finance Subcommittee, will be presented to the full School Committee for its review and approval, and then submitted to the City Council.
Monday night Scallion and Kane presented information which will affect the school budget process to the committee.
Scallion said that the district has been notified that its Title 1 funding will be cut, by as much as $500,000 this year, while a federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 jobs grant, which has buffered the district for the past several years with funding infusions of about $1.6 million a year, has expired.
Scallion presented a school choice program which could generate more than $900,000 in additional revenue for the district. Hosting districts receive $5,000 per student, money that is subtracted from the students’ home district Chapter 70 by the state.
Scallion presented a plan that allows students to enroll in the district, but keeps class size below the maximum student/teacher ratio for that grade level. That number in grades K through three is 20 students and increases to 24 students in grade s four and five. Scallion said that there could be as many as 107 school choice students, including those presently enrolled, in the district’s elementary schools, generating $500,000.
The North Middle School will have no school choice seats available this year, while the South Middle School will offer four in the seventh grade and 12 in the eighth grade, with the potential of generating $80,000
Westfield High School Principal Ray Broderick said that he anticipates 20 school choice seniors will graduate this year, opening that number to new choice students. The school choice population at WHS is typically 70, which generates $350,000 if all of the slots are filled.
Scallion said the district’s enrollment is in decline, which is reflected in the Chapter 70 funding from the state.
“We’re losing (enrollment of) about 200 kids a year,” Scallion said. “What we’re doing here is creating opportunity (for additional school choice revenue). We’ll see how that shakes out when the applications come in this summer.
“I feel that there is urgency to move forward because the Sunday paper was full of school choice advertising by other districts hoping to fill their seats,” Scallion said. “We do lose students to other districts, but we’re on the positive side and want to keep it in our favor.”
Kane said the school choice funding helps buffer the district’s decline in Chapter 70 funding.
“We need some of these offsets to balance the budget,” Kane said.
Kane also advised the committee that the current budget is on target, as the fiscal year nears its end on June 30.
“We’re in the black,” Kane said, as he presented his financial report. “There will be some transfers within the department that will balance the line items of the budget.”
“I will request the committee to allow uncommitted funds (in the current budget) to be committed to the 2013 budget for out of district tuition,” Kane said.
Kane said that some line items are in the red because of weather events, in particular the June 1 tornado which struck the Munger Hill Elementary School.
“We have received $30,000 in insurance payments that have not been posted and the state and federal emergency management agency funds, which have yet to be received, and will wipe out the deficit in the maintenance budget,” he said.

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