Deerfield School Committee proposes $5.5M draft budget

For the Gazette
Thursday, March 16, 2017

DEERFIELD — Deerfield Elementary School’s five-member School Committee recently voted to recommend a $5,472,960 draft budget for FY 2018.

That recommended budget figure represents an increase of 1 percent, or $46,740, over the $5,426,220 budget for the current year.

Of the recommended budget, the committee intends to request $4,588,857 (83.85 percent) from the town, $119,628 more than last year, with the rest coming from state and School Choice.

But the town’s share is higher in part because projected School Choice revenue is down roughly $193,872 from last year.

“Our School Choice funds are declining because we have stopped accepting students at lower grades, but enrollment numbers are still up, and the needs of the students coming in have increased dramatically,” Union 38 District Superintendent Lynn Carey said during the meeting, before opening it up to public comment.

Later, she explained that School Choice provides a flat $5,000 per student, not including additional money for special needs students.

Additional funding, required for costs such as transportation, isn’t determined until June. The school projects to have 15 fewer out-of-town students this fiscal year.

“We have been too reliant on School Choice funds to provide necessary services to our students,” Carey said. “ Although our revenue is declining, our student population is not, and their needs are not.”

She noted that former superintendent Martha Barrett, before retiring, advised the committee to stop relying on School Choice money to balance the budget.

Notable increases that needed to be offset by cutting costs elsewhere include staffing and salary increases, which went up $131,297.

To save money, two positions were reduced by one day per week and a reading tutor position was eliminated entirely.

Addressing the cutbacks, Carey said, “we were very mindful when making these proposals to the School Committee — and we believe these small changes will have the least impact on our students in the classroom.”

She said the School Committee’s decisions stemmed from an effort “to be forward looking. We’re trying maintain the same high level of education that makes Deerfield the quality school that it is.”

Looking ahead, there will be a joint Frontier Regional School Committee meeting held April 6 at the North Main Street School where the budget will be discussed further.

You can reach Andy Castillo

at: acastillo@recorder.com

or 413-772-0261, ext. 263

On Twitter:@AndyCCastillo