READING – At the School Committee meeting Monday January 6th, Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Doherty presented his fiscal 2021 School budget. His budget proposal calls for a 3.5% increase over the current operating budget, a hike of $1,652,315 to $48,419,663.
The Superintendent’s budget message appears below.
I respectfully present to the School Committee and the Greater Reading Community the FY21 Superintendent’s Recommended Budget of $48,419,663 representing an increase of $1,652,315 or 3.5% over the FY20 budget. 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 3.32% over the FY20 Budget and accommodated costs (special education out of district transportation and tuition and one community priority) which increased by 5.24% over the FY20 Budget.
This recommended budget is balanced and aligns with the budget guidance that we received from the Reading Finance Committee on October 16, 2019 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.
The budget message for this year continues to be positive and builds on the momentum of last year with no reductions in personnel or services. This budget emphasizes strong fiscal practices and human resource management while strengthening our PreK-12 curriculum and instructional practices and continuing to build and develop outstanding in-district special education programs.
The Superintendent’s Recommended FY21 budget includes funding to primarily address the following financial drivers:
Funding of all contractual step and COLA increases for represented and non-represented employees. FY21 will be the third and final year of all collective bargaining agreements.
Known out of district special education tuition and transportation expenses reflecting known and anticipated increased rates, as well as changes and potential changes in types of placements.
The second year of a three-year funding cycle for social studies curriculum and training to align with the Massachusetts Social Studies Curriculum Frameworks.
Funding for curriculum materials, curriculum software, and professional development for Algebra 1 and Grade 7-12 Foreign Language. We are currently in the process of reviewing possible resources for the 2020-2021 school year.
Funding for a dyslexia screener for early elementary students. We are in the process of piloting and researching potential tools for the 2020-2021 school year.
Contractual increase in regular day, athletics and extra-curricular transportation per the final year of the transportation contract.
The net addition of 0.54 FTE Special Education Paraeducators, 1.6 FTE Special Education Teachers and related service providers, and 1.0 FTE Payroll/HR Administrative Assistant (Community Priority) due to current and anticipated in-district special education programmatic needs and overall district needs. The breakdown is as follows:
.43 FTE Special Education Program Paraeducator at Killam (Hired in FY20)
.32 FTE Special Education Occupational Therapy Assistant for the district (Increase in FTE in FY20)
.50 FTE Special Education Program Teacher at Killam (Increase in FTE in FY20)
.10 FTE Physical Therapist for District (Increase in FTE in FY20)
.10 FTE adjustment districtwide for special education paraeducator support (Anticipated for FY21)
1.0 FTE Payroll/HR Administrative Assistant (Community Priority – To be hired in FY20)
.4 FTE Special Education Occupational Therapist (Anticipated for FY21)
.6 FTE Speech and Language Pathologist (Anticipated for FY21)
In addition, we continue to closely monitor our revolving accounts and are recommending the following adjustments to those account offsets (see Figure 1 below) in the FY21 budget totaling a net overall increase of $100,000. Refer to Figures 34 and 35 for a more detailed description of these accounts. An overall analysis is being conducted with the Chief Financial Officer, Director of Community and Adult Education, RISE Pre-School Director and the Director of Student Services to review the fee and expense structure of each program to determine if any additional adjustments may be needed in future years.
Revolving Account Change to Offset
Full Day Kindergarten $ 65,000
Extended Day 5,000
RISE Pre-School 20,000
Use of School Property –
Special Education Tuition (30,000)
Coolidge Extra-Curricular –
Parker Extra-Curricular – _____
Total Increase in Offsets $ 100,000
Not included in this budget are any unanticipated costs associated with increases in student enrollment, homeless students, English Language Learner students, 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 closely track additional potential cost increases throughout the fiscal year, and we will keep the Committee informed if any unanticipated costs emerge.
In addition to the above financial drivers, the FY21 budget strives to address our District Improvement Plan and Superintendent Goals. During FY21 (2020-21 school year), we will begin a new District Improvement Plan which will most likely focus on some, or all, of the following areas:
Decreasing the equity gap between high needs students and the general population of students
Refine and Support Data Systems
Evaluate and Refine Standards Based Instructional Systems
Monitor Student Social Emotional Growth and Refine Systems of Support
Improve Physical and Psychological Security of Schools
Develop a Multi-Year Capital Plan to Upgrade and Improve School Facilities
Design a Community Portrait of the Graduate
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 and preparing for the upcoming decennial visit.
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 FY21 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.
The Superintgendent adds “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.”