The School Committee on Monday night approved a budget for next year that is $740,000 less than , but also in line with the amount of funding the mayor said is likely to come from state and local sources and be available to the Braintree schools.
Despite the drop from increase to the approved $2.4 million, it is the largest year-to-year boost in funding for the since 2002. The $51.7 million fiscal 2013 document will go before the on May 1 as part of its town-wide budget process.
Included in the proposed funding hike is $2 million in salary and step increases, $242,000 in additional special education costs, $487,000 to pay for teachers whose salaries had been covered by a federal job grant, and other various increases. Altogether, the budget absorbs those nine teacher salaries, adds nine educators and three paraeducators.
Savings from the superintendent's previous draft comes from sources such as $250,000 in utilities efficiencies and trimming energy managers from the payroll, several hundred thousand from BHS setting up its own language-based special education program, and $150,000 by way of not filling a high school housemaster position after a retirement and also not filling an administrative assistant slot.
Committee members voted 6-1 on the budget, with Joe Zarrella dissenting. Zarrella said it was a difficult vote for him, but that he cast in the negative because an independent audit of the schools budget has not been completed nearly a year .
"I don't feel comfortable going to the taxpayers for an increase not knowing what we have here," Zarrella said.
He also said the presentation of the budget documents was confusing, a sentiment echoed by member Tom Devin. Zarrella moved that the committee create a budget subcommittee, a suggestion approved unanimously. Chair Shannon Hume said that she will work to formulate the body following this budget season.
The decision to not fill one BHS housemaster position drew the most concern from members. Lisa Heger said she is worried that the workload will be too much for the remaining two housemasters – positions that serve as "mentors" and set the academic and behavioral tone for the school.
Following the finalization of the state budget the past two years, Braintree has been able to add funding to the schools, Superintendent Dr. Peter Kurzberg said, and hiring a housemaster is a top priority, along with adding an ELL teacher. He also said the administration will look within its budget for savings, such as the potential that a new resource staff member for will not be hired as indicated in the current draft.
Mayor Joseph Sullivan said he expects the House to file its budget on Wednesday, followed by the Senate in a few weeks. The document approved Monday night is a "minimum standard of funding for fiscal year 2013" that the town will work to improve on in the coming months, he said.
"I believe this to be a budget that is not only wise, but sustainable," Sullivan said. "We can always do more."