School budget: cancel world languages, gifted & talented

A regular meeting of the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, October 28, started at 6:00 pm in the sixth-floor meeting room at Town Hall. The highlight of the meeting was another school-budget discussion. Attendance was very light, mostly School Committee members and town staff. There is apparently no community organization now actively backing or opposing a tax override. Other business at the meeting will be reported separately.

School budget options: William Lupini, the school superintendent, presented his priorities for using school budget funds–sorted into options for a property tax override that the Board of Selectmen is considering for next spring. In previous reports, these school-budget options have been called:

Maximum override $8.8 million per year
High override $7.9 million per year
Low override $5.0 million per year
No override current school budget

Dr. Lupini favors “maximum override”–which he called “long-term budget.” He did not provide a dollar amount but called “high override” a “90 percent” approach. That would apparently make “maximum override” about $8.8 million. Dr. Lupini’s presentation ignored an obvious option: “no override.” He looked unprepared for a situation in which the Board of Selectmen or Brookline voters reject tax overrides. Both Dr. Lupini and members of the board seemed to assume any budget would increase 2.5 percent per year, as currently allowed under state law.

Background: At a previous school-budget review on October 7, board member Nancy Daly had asked for a budget projection. Susan Ditkoff, chair of the School Committee, described a process extending into next spring. Board members said it had to be much faster and said the budget must tell what an override buys. At this review, Dr. Lupini began to provide some answers. According to Barbara Scotto, vice chair of the School Committee, Dr. Lupini’s priorities had been described to the School Committee but not yet approved by them.

The Override Study Committee of 2013, which filed a final report August 14 of this year, recommends the “low override” of an additional $5 million per year in property taxes, mainly if not entirely for the school budget, plus a debt service exclusion for $23 million to renovate and enlarge Devotion School.

Tax increases: The study committee’s recommended operating-cost override would increase taxes about 2.7 percent. The recommended debt exclusion would add about 0.9 percent more in taxes for an estimated 25 years. When added to a usual 2.5 percent increase, allowed under state law, Brookline taxes would increase about 5 percent next year–but about 6 percent when debt service payments for the Devotion School project develop.

Based on amounts developed by the Override Study Committee, not including new funding for school buildings, beginning in July, 2015, Brookline property taxes would increase by approximately these percentages for the four operating-cost override options:

Maximum override 7.3 percent
High override 6.8 percent
Low override 5.2 percent
No override 2.5 percent

School programs: Dr. Lupini’s priorities for the school budget are in the following table. Amounts are rounded, Those shown as “$” are millions of dollars. Those shown as “xxx” were omitted from Dr. Lupini’s tables or were ambiguously stated.

Added / Override option None Low High Maximum
central administration xxx 3 3 4
high school admin. xxx 1 2 4
vice principals xxx 1 1 3
high school teachers xxx -5 11 16
elementary teachers xxx 18 22 xxx
world language xxx -15 3 3
gifted and talented xxx -4 4 xxx
second-grade assistants xxx 0 0 14
elementary guidance xxx 8 8 10
elementary nurses xxx 2 2 3
“steps to success” xxx 0 2 2
technology xxx $1.5 $1.5 $1.8
instructional supplies xxx $0.2 $0.2 $0.3
training programs xxx $0.1 $0.1 $0.3
—————— —– —– —– —–
literacy specialists xxx 8 8 8
math specialists xxx 8 8 8
disability therapists xxx 14 14 14

Priorities: With any override at all, Dr. Lupini plans to hire 5 to 11 new administrators. With “low override” or presumably “no override,” Dr. Lupini plans to cancel the world language program for sixth, seventh and eighth grades and cancel the gifted and talented program, currently called “enrichment and challenge support.”

With “low override” or presumably “no override,” at least 24 teachers and staff will be fired. In their places, if he can, Dr. Lupini plans to hire up to 40 nurses, guidance counselors and specialists in math, literacy and disabilities. However, it is not clear whether any would be hired with “no override.” Once the parents and the School Committee understand these changes, objections seem foreseeable.

– Beacon staff, Brookline, MA, November 11, 2014

Board of Selectmen: hearings on tax overrides, Brookline Beacon, October 21, 2014

Board of Selectmen: appointments, warrant articles, school spending, Brookline Beacon, October 8, 2014

Override Study Committee of 2013, Final Report, Town of Brookline, MA, August 14, 2014

Override Study Committee: $5 million tax override, plus Devotion School debt exclusion, Brookline Beacon, July 31, 2014

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>