Superintendent’s Message Regarding the FY20 Superintendent’s Recommended Budget

I respectfully present to the School Committee and the Greater Reading Community the FY20 Superintendent’s Recommended Budget of $46,467,348 representing an increase of $1,607,073 or 3.6% over the FY19 budget.  Copies of both the Superintendent’s Recommended Budget and the MUNIS Accounting Ledger can be found at the Reading Public School website located here.  The increases are broken down by non-accommodated costs (all costs except special education out of district transportation and tuition and one community priority) which increased by 3.25% over the FY19 Budget and accommodated costs (special education out of district transportation and tuition and one community priority) which increased by 6.55% over the FY19 Budget.

This recommended budget aligns with the budget guidance that we received from the Reading Finance Committee on October 10, 2018 and subsequent discussions with the Town Manager and Town Accountant.  The Finance Committee’s recommended guidance is based on an analysis of current and future town revenue and expense projections of the Community.

Since the last Superintendent’s budget message one year ago, there have been significant fiscal changes in our district, most of it has been positive.  For the first time in my ten years developing and recommending budgets, I do not have to focus my introductory budget message on the funding challenges facing our school district.  This is because our most positive change, which has impacted the entire community, was the community support last April of a proposition 2 ½ override ballot question which restored and retained teaching positions, added curriculum materials, replaced outdated and aged technology, increased professional development and training, and provided additional curriculum and special education supports for teachers.  Because of this additional financial support, foreign language and additional language arts classes have continued at our middle schools, class sizes have been reduced at our elementary schools, and our high school is now able to offer more course sections, additional electives and Advanced Placement Courses for all students.  We are grateful of the work that was done by our community, town, and school leaders who worked together to accomplish this significant achievement.  I want to recognize the work of “Yes for Reading” under the leadership of Erin Gaffen and Michelle Sanphy for building the infrastructure and grass roots support necessary for this monumental task.  In addition, I want to thank Town Manager Bob LeLacheur and Town Accountant Sharon Angstrom for their leadership and the Select Board and School Committee for their commitment and support toward the override.  I also want to thank Chief Financial Officer Gail Dowd for the countless hours that she put in developing two budgets for last year’s cycle and her commitment to the detail necessary to explain the budget story to the community.  This was truly a team effort and the outcome would not have been possible without everyone working together.

Figure 1 provides an update on the override funding and Figure 2 reconciles the original FY19 budget as approved by the School Committee to the final budget approved by Town Meeting.

override2

Figure 2:  Override Allocation By Cost Center in FY19 Budget

override slide

The Superintendent’s Recommended FY20 budget, includes funding to primarily address the following financial drivers:

  • Funding of all contractual step and COLA increases for represented (based upon successful negotiation of all contracts for 3-year period) and non-represented employees.
  • Increase in known out of district special education tuition and transportation expenses due to increased rates, and types of placements.
  • Curriculum Updates in Social Studies to align with new Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks.
  • Increase in athletic, regular day mandatory, and homeless transportation per transportation contract and an increased number of homeless students.
  • Anticipated increase in contractual cleaning services for RMHS (contract is in final year of 3-year agreement).
  • Renewal of software programs and maintenance programs based on three-year renewal cycle and completion of capital projects.
  • The net addition of 2.95 FTE Special Education Paraeducators, 3.5 FTE Special Education Teachers, 1.2 FTE Regular Education Teachers, and 0.6 FTE Districtwide Coach due to current and anticipated indistrict special education needs, programmatic needs and elementary enrollment needs.  The breakdown is as follows:

 

o    0.61 FTE Special Education Program Paraeducator at Birch Meadow (Hired in FY19)

o    0.76 FTE Special Education Program Paraeducator at RISE (Hired in FY19)

o    1.50 FTE Special Education Program Teacher at Coolidge (Hired in FY19)

o    0.70 FTE Special Education Teacher at Wood End (Hired in FY19)

o    0.30 FTE Special Education Teacher at Killam (Hired in FY19)

o    0.43 FTE Special Education Paraeducator (Anticipated for FY20)

o    0.30 FTE Special Education Paraeducator (Anticipated for FY20)

o    0.85 FTE Special Education Program Paraeducator (Anticipated for FY20)

o   1.0 FTE Special Education Program Teacher (Anticipated for FY20)

o   1.2 FTE Kindergarten and Grade 1 teachers at Killam and Wood End (Anticipated for FY20)

o   0.60 FTE Behavioral Health Coach (Funded as a Community Priority for FY20).  Position is currently funded in the School Climate Transformation grant which is ending this year.

In addition, we are closely monitoring our revolving accounts and are recommending the following adjustments to those accounts (see Figure 3) in the FY20 budget totaling a net overall increase of $62,000.  Refer to Figure 34 and 35 in the budget book for a more detailed description of these accounts.

override 3

Not included in this budget are funds for potential settlements, unknown student placements and unanticipated enrollment increases or extraordinary special education costs related to out of district placement tuition, transportation, or other services as required by a student’s individualized education plan.  We are closely tracking additional potential cost increases throughout the remainder of the current fiscal year including legal, consultation and program costs that we anticipate may occur later in the year as decisions are made regarding individual students.  These potential additional costs are not currently included in the Superintendent’s Recommended FY20 budget as the timing and amounts are not known with certainty.  As a result, we have made a conscious decision to budget less for out of district special education tuition and transportation than we normally would.  We are having discussions with the Town Manager and the leadership of the Finance Committee of these potential increases.  It is most likely we will need to ask for additional funding from April or November Town Meeting for FY19 and/or FY20 in this area.

In addition to the above financial drivers, the FY20 budget strives to help address our District Improvement Plan and other areas.  During FY20 (2019-20 school year), we will begin a new District Improvement Plan which will most likely focus on some or all the following areas:

•        Focus on equity and access for all students

•        School Safety (Physical and Psychological)

•        Closing the achievement gap

•        Social Emotional Learning

•        Addressing the capital needs (school security, educational, programmatic and athletic space) of our schools

This budget also prioritizes maintaining adequate class sizes of 18 to 22 students in kindergarten through Grade 2, maintaining the middle school interdisciplinary model, and addressing the results of the RMHS NEASC Self-study.

In Closing

In conclusion, we are grateful for the financial and community support that we have received and as a result, our district will be able to provide the necessary resources to stay focused on the academic, social, emotional, and behavioral well-being of our students.  The Superintendent’s Recommended FY20 budget reflects those priorities.  While we are proud of the fact that we are a district that is on the forefront in many areas, we have challenges that lie ahead, including addressing the needs of our students with disabilities, educational space needs and improving the social and emotional well-being of our students.   We are proud of the work that our teachers and administrators do every day to improve teaching and learning in our district.  In addition, we have enthusiastic and respectful students who arrive to school every day eager to learn.  This is a testament to our parents and our community who value the importance of education and the role that it needs to play in a community.   There is no question that a major indicator of the quality of life for everyone in a community can be measured by the quality of its schools and by a community’s commitment to its children.  In this way, the quality of a school district affects every single person in a community, and the Town of Reading is no exception.

We appreciate the support that we have received from the community in the past and we look forward to working with the School Committee and town officials during this budget process.

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