News Feature

Originally published in The Weekly Packet, February 21, 2013
Brooksville school board narrows increase to 1.06 percent

by Anne Berleant

On its fourth and final draft of the 2013-14 school budget, board members trimmed $10,000 more and ended with a 1.06 percent or $18,308 increase over the current year’s budget of $1,725,012.

The board will ask voters to approve $1,743,320 in expenditures for the next school year at the March 5 town meeting.

The final savings came through cuts to technology in the elementary education program. An interactive “smart” whiteboard with a $4,000 price tag was dropped, and the budget was reduced for new computer and related equipment leases. The final amount budgeted is $8,000, still a 31-percent increase from 2012-13.

“If the board could have looked at the [proposed] computer lease earlier, we might have been able to find other places in the budget to cut,” said member Helen Condon after the budget was approved.

The board had already cut the after school program—which served an average of eight to 10 students in 2011-12—from the 2013-14 budget.

Last year, the board—and voters—approved $10,000 in the 2012-13 budget for the program, which provides homework help and activities—plus transportation, allowing for participation in extracurricular programs such as drama and WBES. But the program never kicked off due to bus and driver issues, and once those were resolved, the board declined to resume the program.

The board did opt to continue funding another program that stalled this year: foreign language, at a cost of $16,838.

“I don’t think we should take this out; we’ll never get it back,” said chairman Charles Tarr.

In a separate warrant article, the school is asking voters for $10,000 toward a future school bus. If approved, the bus reserve account will hold $50,000. A new school bus costs around $70,000, and board members are looking at 2014-15 to buy.

Expected state revenue is budgeted at $25,000. “It’s a guess,” said Superintendent Mark Hurvitt, as was last year’s $22,990, because no state figures are released before the board has to approved the budget.

While a recent curtailment cut state revenue to schools for 2012-13, Brooksville is up $73,000 from what it had budgeted.

That money will be used as revenue for 2013-14 “to alleviate the tax burden,” Hurvitt said.

And while “carryover” funds—money left from previous years—is an extremely low $3,337, Union 93 business manager Carolyn Heller told board members in February that around $85,000 budgeted in 2012-13 for teacher salaries and the after school and foreign language programs will remain unspent.