Jefferson Budget Committee member Wayne Parlin moved to cut $60,000 from the regular instruction budget category for several different reasons, but the amendment failed to pass. (D. Lobkowicz photo)
By Dominik Lobkowicz
At special town meeting May 27, 135 Jefferson voters adopted a $5,173,053 K-12 education budget recommended by the Jefferson School Committee. Voters will have the opportunity to validate the budget at referendum on June 10.
If approved, the budget would be a $235,656 or 4.77 percent increase over the current year, representing a $140,325 or 4.4 percent increase to the local share. Comparatively the budget would be down $55,702 or 1.06 percent over the 2012-2013 school year, but would still be a $134,566 or 4.2 percent increase locally.
All of the articles on the meeting warrant passed handily as recommended and most with little or no discussion.
Regular instruction garnered the most interest because of a $60,000 cut proposed by Jefferson Budget Committee member Wayne Parlin.
The category, which was recommended and eventually approved at $2,015,786, will be up $103,166 or 5.39 percent over the current budget if voters validate it.
The proposed increase includes partially restoring “specials” – physical education, art, and music – cut to half time last year to 80 percent of full time, and adding a teacher originally discussed to be a second second-grade teacher.
At the meeting, Jefferson Village School Principal Peter Gallace said the original thought of adding another second-grade teacher was formed before kindergarten screening was performed.
Since both kindergarten and second grade are expected to have 23 students next year, the teacher may instead be used to split up the kindergarten, he said.
Parlin, who initiated a $240,000 cut to regular instruction that voters approved in the current budget, moved to cut $60,000 from the same category this year.
Parlin said in an interview May 28 he intended the cut to remove the funding for the “specials” increases and money included for potential teacher salary increases, and to cut some of the health insurance costs the town is paying for teachers.
Many people in town are not in favor of the health insurance plans since the town covers 100 percent of the cost, according to Parlin, and those people feel teachers should carry some portion of the cost.
Since teacher contract negotiations are currently ongoing, “I wanted to get the message out that this is the time to do something about it and make a statement on that,” he said.
At the meeting, Parlin said he hoped the money included for the additional teacher would be used for additional ed techs instead, reiterating a point he made earlier in the budget process.
Several people spoke against the proposed cut, including Dave Richmond, who said he disagrees with the notion that additional seat time for students if the specials were cut would translate to all that time being spent learning other subjects.
“It’s not as simple as plugging their brain in like a USB port and downloading in the information,” he said.
Richmond, who was an art major in college, said he does not use his degree for anything in his professional life, but “I use it in every problem I solve. It’s how my brain works.”
Parlin’s proposed cut failed by a wide margin.
Voters approved all the budget categories as recommended by the Jefferson School Committee: regular instruction, $2,015,786; special education, $752,911; career and technical education, $13,082; other instruction, $28,738; student and staff support, $169,528; system administration, $112,222; school administration, $157,017; transportation and buses, $455,782; facilities maintenance, $287,309; debt service and other commitments, $1,161,818; All other expenditures, $18,859; food service program, $10,289; local share of adult education, $8,872.
Aside from regular instruction, transportation and buses held the largest change in the proposed budget, a proposed increase of $103,417 or 29.35 percent over the current year.
The increase would include the transfer of a $40,169 state bus purchase reimbursement (included in the revenue side of the budget) to a bus purchase reserve account, and $85,000 to go toward the two-year lease-purchase of two new buses for next year.
The increase to transportation and buses would be partially offset by a $14,000 reduction in budgeted bus maintenance and repair costs.
Voters will give their say on final approval to the budget at referendum on Tuesday, June 10. Polls will be open at the Jefferson Fire Station from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.