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Tax hike boosts Newton school budget for next year

Posted by Deidre Fernandes  March 19, 2013 09:56 AM

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Dozens of new teachers, part-time assistant principals at three elementary schools, more special education programs at the middle schools, better science equipment at Newton South High School and a fresh order of elementary mobile classrooms are all included in Newton Schools Superintendent David Fleishman’s $187.7 million budget proposal for the 2013-2014 school year.

The budget, which Fleishman presented to the public and Newton’s School Committee on Monday, represents an $8.9 million – or 5 percent -- increase over the current year.
About 40 percent of the increase relies on money gained from last week’s voter-approved tax hike.

The passage of the override of Proposition 2 ½ makes next year’s budget “a more positive budget proposal than the Newton Public Schools have seen in a long time,” Fleishman said.

The recommended budget allows the district to add more than 52 positions to the school district, increasing its full-time staff to almost 1,925 employees. Almost all are new teaching positions.

The district also wants to hire two more custodians and a human resources staffer who will help manage additional security for the district, including a new photo identification badge program.

Newton will reorganize some special education programs at the elementary school level to rely less on aides and more on special education teachers. The district is moving to more co-taught classrooms with both a special education teacher and regular education teacher leading the class.

In the middle schools, the district is expanding the autism program and developing more services for students who would otherwise be placed outside of the district for education. The tuition costs for private placements for special education services continue to rise and the district is trying to keep more of the students in Newton schools with a wider array of programs to meet the children’s needs, Fleishman said.

Next year, Newton expects to spend $9.8 million on placing special education students in out-of-district day or residential programs.

Newton teachers will get a range of salary and step increases in 2013-2014 that were negotiated in their contracts, Fleishman said.

Teachers with more than 15 years of experience, which account for about 40 percent of Newton’s teachers, will receive a 1.82 percent raise.

The range of increases for the remaining 60 percent of employees was unavailable on Monday.

The School Committee will hold a series of budget meetings in the coming weeks with a final vote on the 2013-2014 financial plan scheduled on April 8.

Deirdre Fernandes can be reached at deirdre.fernandes@globe.com.

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