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Hingham schools' request for 4.92% budget increase likely to be cut

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  February 13, 2014 05:30 PM

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Hingham school officials said they will cut back some personnel and service requests to bring the proposed fiscal 2015 budget more in line with other town departments.

Preliminary proposals were set to increase the school budget from $41.8 million in fiscal 2014, which ends June 30, to $43.8 million. The funding was designed to accommodate existing services as well as future enrollment, staffing, and building needs.

Yet Superintendent Dorothy Galo said the Board of Selectmen and Advisory Committee indicated in meetings that the amount was too high and will need revision.

“We believe all of these things are needed,” Galo said. “[But] the School Committee will have to set some priorities, because we received the message that a 4.92 percent [increase] is more than the town can manage.”

While existing services and teachers won’t be cut, school officials will have to rank requests for future positions and programs.

Among the options are additional teachers, councilors, and support staff; increased support hours for language labs and tutor hours; more stipends for high school activities advisers; more technology professional development; and more swimming and diving coaches.

Additional custodians, field maintenance hours and workers, and alarms are also requested.

All six union contracts will expire next year as well. Allowances have been put in the budget for potential increases, though those numbers are merely estimates, Galo said.

Galo said she and Business Manager John Ferris would be revising the numbers over February break. The School Committee will receive the recommendations and then vote on them by Feb. 24.

From there, the selectmen and advisory members will take a vote. If the amounts are different, the School Committee can revise their numbers to match those of town officials. Conversely, the committee can go to Town Meeting with a budget request that is different from the town’s.

While some additions will have to be dropped, Galo said the budget will probably grow enough to accommodate some add-ons.

Hingham’s school budget increased 3.13 percent from fiscal 2013 to 2014. Galo said revised increases for the next fiscal year will most likely fall between 3 percent and the nearly 5 percent requested.

Shifting personnel changes, specifically retirements, may also reduce the budget without sacrificing new requests.

Last year, unanticipated retirements and leaves of absence left money on the table that could be put to new uses. Galo said similar developments this year could do the same.

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