School officials propose $47 million budget for next year

Mar 2, 2021

At a March 1 School Committee meeting, School Business Administrator James Kiely unveiled a $47.3 million budget proposal for next fiscal year.

The $47,338,665 figure represents a 3.8% increase from the budget for fiscal year 2021.

Three quarters of the proposed budget would go to instruction, including salaries for teachers, principals, and other staff, as well as books, technology and other classroom supplies.

Other services — including transportation, health, athletics, band, and other activities and clubs — take up 11% of the budget, while maintenance accounts for 8%, out of district student tuition for 4%, and administration for 2%. 

Out of district student tuition includes payments for special education and evening school.

“In the end, these proportions are consistent with what we’ve spent the last couple of years,” Kiely told committee members.

Compared to last year, instruction is up about 3% due primarily to contractual obligations for salary increases, he explained.

The administration budget decreased by 4% due to restructuring two assistant positions, while the maintenance budget increased by less than 1%.

This year 3,417 students are attending Dartmouth Public Schools, down 164 from last year and incurring a per pupil expenditure of around $13,300 for fiscal year 2021.

In 2018, the last year for which state data is available, Dartmouth’s per pupil expenditure was 15% below the statewide average of $16,506.

Kiely said that the only additions to the budget this year include new social worker positions — increasing a part time worker at Cushman to full time, and hiring another social worker for the district — and a special reading program for students with dyslexia.

“If there’s ever a time we need to support kids’ social and emotional health, this is the time,” he noted.

Plenty of budget requests were not funded this year, Kiely said, although administrators hope to fund some of those with money received for educating students from out of town.

“You're looking at $600k of other requests out there, so it’s substantial,” he said.

School Committee chair Chris Oliver commented that the budget proposal was “a little disheartening,” while member John Nunes likened the plan to buying cars.

“It’s not somebody looking for a Maserati or a Lexus,” he said. “They're looking for Chevrolets and Hondas...Just to keep their program going.”

The School Committee will review and comment on the budget at its next meeting on March 8 ahead of a public hearing set for March 22.

Following a review by the Select Board and Finance Committee, the School Committee will have to give the budget a final seal of approval before it goes to Town Meeting in June.