The Norton School Committee presented their recommended fiscal year 2014 budget of just over $24M on Monday, an increase of just under $1.6 million from the fiscal year 2013.
Norton Public Schools interim superintendent Christopher Martes said that this increase is mostly due to contractual obligations for salaries, but also to other mitigating factors.
He said the loss of one of their grants from the EDU Jobs Grant, which ends this year, means an extra $290,000 in personnel costs.
“It was part of some of the bailout work the president and his staff did,” he said. "We have to fill that obligation or reduce… We built that obligation into the budget.”
He said that due to required cost of living increases and the grant ending, they are requesting a 4.13 percent increase in salary obligations, or $950,571.
Martes said that there was also a $512,898 increase in level services, including contract services, tuition, transportation contracts, sequestration cuts and school materials.
Martes said they took precautionary steps in terms of contracts and sequestration cuts. He said that the schools will have to renegotiate contracts with new transportation services, and though they have no real numbers at the moment, they have built into the budget a 5 percent “worst case scenario” increase in costs.
Martes said that they also built in expected cuts into the budget concerning the sequestration in Washington if the government does not come to a compromise concerning the cuts.
Martes said that the total federal cuts to the district would be $120,000, but added that there may be further cuts on the state level when they make the budget in the summer after the federal cuts take place and hit funds to the state.
Martes said that the cuts would affect federal Title I grant, also known as the Education for the Disadvantaged grant, Title IIa grant, also known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and the Federal Special Education Grant.
The recommended budget for fiscal year 2014 increased to $24,567,620, which is the highest increase in the school budget in Norton since the 2006 school year at 8.23 percent. Martes said he believes the budget could work with the town.
“At some point and time the budget will get better, but we’re not out of the woods yet,” he said. “We built [the budget] so we could get to a point where we could continue where we’re not going to in an era of cutting. I think we’re getting out of that.”
Norton has seen budget cuts in the past. In 2009, the budget went down 1.62 percent, stayed level funded in 2010 and was cut 1.70 percent in 2011.
Norton went with 3.32 percent cuts over those periods, and regained 3.68 cuts in 2012 and 2013.
The recommended budget will give Norton schools an increase of 6.78 percent if approved by the town.