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Wellesley override closer as school officials consider budget increases

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  January 6, 2014 10:00 AM

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This month will prove a busy one for Wellesley school officials.

The Wellesley School Committee will hold multiple meetings in the next few weeks to hear from the public and ultimately vote on the district’s budget for next year, which is proposed to rise 7 percent higher than last year’s and would require a town override vote.

School Committee members will report on their budget review progress on Tuesday Jan. 7 at 7 p.m., and a public hearing is scheduled Thursday Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. so local parents and residents can voice their opinions. School Committee members are slated to vote on the budget on Jan. 14, said superintendent David Lussier.

Wellesley school administrators asked in December for a 7 percent budget increase, to a total of $64.3 million, for the next fiscal year to fund new programs like full-day kindergarten and language courses for young Wellesley students. Any budget that hikes higher than 1.75 percent requires an override of Proposition 2 1/2 to raise taxes, officials said.

If approved, the money would fund a variety of new programs in Wellesley schools. Full-day kindergarten has the highest price tag of the new additions at $402,240, according to the proposal.

The issue is not exactly new to locals. At a school district forum in October, some Wellesley parents clamored for implementing the full-day model in their public schools, citing education and childcare benefits, while others opposed the potential tax hike necessary to fund it.

If the override succeeds, full-day kindergarten would be introduced next year, although how is still being decided, Lussier previously told the Globe.

"Full-day kindergarten will begin to happen next year," Lussier had said. "We don't know if it will be happening on day one, or if it will be phased in, but a transition will begin next year."

The new budget proposal also includes a total of $215,719 for a new science curriculum across the district; $177,325 for a new social studies curriculum; $15,000 to introduce foreign language classes at the elementary school level; and $15,200 for apps in Wellesley’s one-on-one laptop initiative. Administrators are also asking for $660,000 in estimated benefits packages for new school employees.

Although the sticker shock may be high, Lussier previously told the Globe that he purposely wanted to bundle all the new programs into one figure.

"We don’t want to be in a position where we have to keep going back to the town" for more money, he had said, noting that Wellesley has not seen an override in years.

Lussier said in an email Sunday that he will also give an update on redistricting the town's elementary schools, which has begun as some schools face chronic overcrowding.

The administration created a Redistricting Advisory Committee in October to brainstorm and present plans on redistricting, which could be implemented as soon as this coming fall, Lussier previously said.

In an October letter sent to parents, Lussier firmly advocated for redistricting. He said that Wellesley schools have seen such a surge in enrollment that some schools' rooms previously used for music and arts classes have been shut down to be used as general classrooms.

Administrators acknowledged that reassigning students to a new local school might provide hardships, but argued that the decision was for the better.

"The School Committee and the Administration recognize that we must approach this work with a great deal of care to minimize the impact of any proposed changes on the community while still providing the relief we need across the system," Lussier said.

For more information on Wellesley public school, visit the district's official website.

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Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com

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