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Wellesley School Committee approves hefty school budget, heading town for override

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  January 16, 2014 12:20 PM

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School Committee members this week unanimously approved the $64.3 million school budget for next year, which is 7 percent more than this year’s and would require an override of Proposition 2½ to raise taxes to pay for it.

The five-member school board voted 4-0 Tuesday to approve the next fiscal year's school operating, capital and benefits budgets as proposed by administrators in recent weeks. One board member was absent due to a family emergency, officials said.

In order for the school administration's budget to succeed, Town Meeting would have to approve it and require a override ballot vote this spring, said Wellesley Superintendent David Lussier last week.

"For our budget to succeed that would require an override, which would come approximately 45 days after Town Meeting in April, so roughly in May," he said. "But it's a long process before this is finalized."

Lussier previously told the Globe that Wellesley has not seen an override in years.

Next year's hefty school budget would add several new programs to the school district as part of Lussier's five-year strategic plan.

"This is our first budget fully aligned with our strategic plan and we’re really excited about that," Lussier said over the phone last week. "I know we're making significant requests for the future as outlined in that plan."

The most expensive new line item is to start full-day kindergarten, which would cost about $760,000. Wellesley parents have hotly debated the topic in recent months: some clamored for implementing full-day kindergarten 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 also calls for spending $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 in the elementary schools, 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, including 18 teaching assistants needed for full-day kindergarten.

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.

For more information on the district's five-year plan, visit Wellesley's public schools' official website.

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Follow us on Twitter: @yourwellesley, @jaclynreiss

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

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