Scituate schools budget up 3 percent, includes all-day K

Scituate schools budget up 3 percent, includes all-day K

SCITUATE - The School Department says it needs $22.4 million to run town schools next year, a 3 percent increase of $657,500, with all-day kindergarten in place and $75,000 requested for repairs to all four classroom buildings.

Supt. Paul R. Lescault said the Town Council seemed "generally pleased" with the budget proposal at a hearing last month, so he is hopeful the council will approve it. The council usually acts on the budget in mid-March, with a town meeting for voter consideration usually held in early April. Scituate is one of the few towns in the state with an April 1 start of the fiscal year rather than the usual July 1.

The budget shows a 10.7 percent increase in state educational aid for Scituate, going from $3.5 million to $3.8 million. The final amount of state aid won't be known until the General Assembly sets next year's budget by the end of June.

Lescault said the $3.8 million figure is based on two factors: what Gov. Lincoln Chafee proposed as well as the comments of lawmakers who have said they intend to fully fund the school formula; and the fact that state aid was under-budgeted by about $70,000 this year.

The $75,000 sought for repairs to school buildings represents a 53 percent increase above this year. Amounts spent and budgeted in recent years suggest this line item can fluctuate widely.

In Fiscal Year 2013, $104,000 was spent on repairs and, in the current Fiscal Year 2014, only $49,000 was budgeted.

The lion's share of the $75,000 - $55,350 - would go for repairs to the middle/high school complex, where $36,000 was budgeted this year and $51,000 spent the previous year. Other repairs would cost: $5,700 at Hope Elementary School; $6,450 at Clayville Elementary School; and $7,500 at North Scituate Elementary School.

Lescault noted that it is difficult to budget for repairs because "you can't determine (them) in advance" so they are "classically under-budgeted," as was the case this current year.

In a change that would perhaps reduce the number of building repairs, the new budget would add a "certified and licensed" plumber to the two-member buildings and grounds staff, according to Lescault. He said the salary level would be in "the mid-40s" and the additional employee means there would be no need to call in outside contractors for plumbing work.

"We can keep him busy," Lescault said.

Most line items in the budget seek level-funding for the next fiscal year, but there are exceptions such as: 66 percent increase in special education resource teachers, which Lescault said is simply due to moving personnel from one budget category to another; a 17.5 percent drop in the cost of electricity; a 233 percent hike for "asbestos management," which Lescault said reflects the cost of periodic inspections, as well as under-budgeting because only $750 was set aside this year and $2,500 is sought next year.

The amount budgeted for transportation in the next fiscal year will be underspent by about $120,000, Lescault said, because two buses will be eliminated when all-day replaces half-day kindergarten next year.

The savings, however, will be "a wash," Lescault said. It will go to fund new teachers needed for all-day kindergarten, which the superintendent said could be as many as three full-timers. He will have firm figures after kindergarten registration is held.