Region 12's proposed budget represents sharp increase over current year

WASHINGTON — Region 12 Superintendent Patricia Cosentino recently presented a school budget that is nearly 4 percent higher than the budget for this school year.

The $22.2 million proposal for the 2018-2019 school year is about $800,000 higher than this year’s budget. If approved by the school board and eventually by voters, it would be the first annual budget increase exceeding 2.2 percent in nine years.

From 2015 to 2017, the budget went down every year, and the current budget represented an increase of just 0.12 percent over 2016-2017, owing mainly to falling enrollment.

“Through good fiscal management, we’ve been able to come in with some significantly low budgets,” Cosentino said at last week’s presentation. But employee benefit costs have risen, making them “the most difficult part of our budget this year.”

“We are up over half a million dollars, and really it’s because of the significant number of staff members who have experienced medical hardships,” she added. “This is a big hit for us.”

Employee benefits will cost $3.5 million next year, an 18 percent increase over this year, including medical insurance, disability insurance and related expenses. Cosentino said administrators are still looking for ways to bring such costs down, including possibly changing benefit providers.

Contracted services, including occupational and physical therapists that cater to students with special needs, are also up some $80,000.

More Information

Significant changes in the proposed budget

Salaries: $114,674

Benefits: $526,771

Purchased Professional Services: $104,213

Other Purchased Services: ($56,460)

Supplies: $31,761

Program Improvements: $102,085

Salaries for paid staff are up $115,000, or 1 percent over this year. The budget envisions laying off one math teacher and a part-time art teacher at the high school, while adding a physics teacher.

Cosentino said the aim is to bolster science staff for the district’s new Agriscience-STEM academy, which is slated to open in the fall of 2019. The budget also calls for hiring an academy director.

The staffing changes are the only major Ag-STEM related items on next year’s budget. Eighty percent of the project, which costs nearly $30 million, will be paid for with a state grant.

Cosentino also reviewed elementary school projects the district plans to undertake before 2020, which are budgeted separately. The largest expense will be incurred in making the Booth Free School playground in Roxbury compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which will cost $100,000.

The school district includes three towns: Washington, Roxbury and Bridgewater. How much each town pays depends on the percentage of students it supplies, so Bridgewater, with only 18 percent of the student body, will only pay $4 million of the proposed budget, or 1.2 percent less than last year, while Washington will pay 1.6 percent more and Roxbury 8.9 percent more.; 203-731-3411; @bglytton