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School Deficit Grows by $200K, Still 'Manageable'

Additional costs since first draft in January could lead to cuts in four teaching slots.

The price of everything is going up and so is the costs associated with running the .

From the last time the school department presented a draft budget to the on Jan. 10 that showed the district , level service expenses have now increased by $199,686 in the past two months, increasing the deficit facing schools by nearly 30 percent to approximately $709,000.

The new assumptions shows available revenue in the fiscal 2013 budget at $42.7 million with the new level service budget – the funding the district requires to provide the same services from the previous year – creeping up to $43.4 million.

According to , the likely remedy for bridging the growing gap is by further reducing teaching positions to where the district could see 10 full-time slots cut.

"I think it's still a manageable gap," said Kingston.

The budget increase came in salary adjustments and staff small increases. The three largest components included complying with new state transportation regulations ($30,000), reversing an earlier district decision so the revolving fund for athletic coaches will not be charged back to the general fund ($43,525) and placing the district's legal counsel on an hourly basis rather than on retainer ($50,000.)

As for the district's legal representation, Laurie Graham, School Committee chairwoman, said the district will follow the town's practice.

"The $50,000 is a very conservative estimate. We budgeted an amount that we don't believe we will use," said Graham.

The current resolution for the deficit will be a further reduction of 4.3 full-time equivalent teaching positions which will save $193,500 from the fiscal 2013 budget.

As a result the growing list of proposed cuts include:

Targeted areas Total reductions 2.43 FT Elementary teaching positions $109,500 2.93 FT Middle School teaching positions $132,000 4.73 FT High School teaching positions $232,223 Elementary instructional expenses, material $17,671 Middle School instructional expenses, material $26,750 High School instructional expenses, material $30,563 District-wide instructional expenses, material $40,000 Athletic coaches charged back to general funds $43,525 Building maintenance and repairs $33,202 Utilities charged to building rental revolving account $43,474 Total reductions $708,908

While noting that the reductions could have a detrimental impact on education, Kingston "hopes we can find the money" to reduce the deficit and not teachers.

School Committee's Laurie Slap said there is the likelihood new revenue that the town's Warrant Committee – the financial watchdog for the Town Meeting which will have the final say on the town's budgets at May's annual assembly – has identified could be directed to the schools.

Yet those funds are small in terms of the overall schools deficit, said Slap.

In addition, the school's draft budget revenue amount is not written in stone but will be "floating" until all assumptions on revenue coming to Belmont is finalized, said Committee member Kevin Cunningham.

"We won't know until the governor's budget is presented and approved" what the "final" dollar amount the town will receive from the state, said Cunningham, noting that Governor Patrick's budget will not be presented to the legislature until mid-April. 

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