Lukon proposes $11.9M budget for schools
The School Committee will meet Thursday to continue discussion on its proposed spending plan for fiscal year 2015. Superintendent of Schools Marcia Lukon recently revealed her anticipated $11,885,458 operating budget.
Lukon’s plan is a 2.12 percent increase over the current fiscal year. It calls for a town contribution of $177,401, a 1.6 percent uptick. While the administration employed zero-budgeting to build its spending plan, Lukon warned the committee that a series of “unknowns” could impact the proposal. Zero-based budgeting is an approach where every line item starts from scratch and must be approved.
Among the unknowns are health premiums, state aid, grant funding, transportation costs, military enrollment and tuition rates.
The budget goals will serve as an extension of the five-year plan that expired in 2014. According to Lukon, technology remains a critical objective. An advisory committee analyzed the district’s use of technology since the turn of the century, and it proposed the addition of a support specialist. Lukon said adding the full-time position would be partly offset by the elimination of a part-time behavior specialist.
The district already has a fulltime and part-time specialist in the technology office, but School Committee Chairwoman Cathy Kaiser says it’s going to be difficult to keep up with technological advances with status quo staffing. She says the tech staff already has its hands full with equipment acquisition, maintenance and troubleshooting. Moreover, standardized testing that will be introduced next year will be administered on computers.
Committee members wondered if another part-time appointment for technology integration would be sufficient. Lukon said the lack of expertise in the district has resulted in a “maintenance backlog” and teacher frustration. She explained that another full-time specialist would assist with hardware and software, identify new programs to support the curriculum, and help teachers use the technology. Currently, Lukon said, limited guidance for teachers has resulted in limited use of the equipment.
In other budget news, Lew Kitts, the district’s director of grounds and maintenance, presented his $92,000 spending package for capital improvements. The upgrades would be funded through the district’s unreserved fund.
Kitts’ proposal includes funds for painting the interior and exterior of both schools, and replacing ovens, oil burners and emergency doors at Lawn School.
Also, Samira Hakki, director of technology, is asking for $28,000 to purchase laptops and a laptop cart for the teachers.
Because the budget is weighted by the number of students, Lukon revealed estimated enrollment figures for the 2014-15 school year. She projects:
• A decrease of five students in prekindergarten;
• A decrease of 19 students in grades K-8 at the Lawn and Melrose schools;
• And an increase of 14 students at North Kingstown High.
Additional budget meetings will be held on Thursday, Feb. 13, and Thursday, Feb. 27. A vote is expected following the latter meeting. Both meetings will be held at 7 p.m. in the learning support classroom at Melrose School.