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WESTBROOK - For Westbrook, the schools' budget story is how to absorb and pay for higher than anticipated costs tied to needed services for new special education students with extraordinary needs. The Board of Education-approved 2014-'15 budget proposal would increase spending by 3.54 percent compared to anticipated 2013-'14 expenditures.
The Board of Education adopted a proposed budget of $16,892,234 at its March meeting. Embedded in this figure is a bump of $450,000 to pay for tuition at and transportation to out-of-district school placements and to provide special services to support known special education students with extraordinary needs next year.
Costs for certified and non-certified staff salaries and benefits represent 78.84 percent of the proposed budget. The budget as proposed will also provide programming and services for the district's projected enrollment of 847 students next year.
"We're encouraged that the staff put together a very reasonable budget. We as a board decided to put a few expenditures back in specifically to the supplies budget," said Board of Education Chairman Maureen Westbrook.
To the supplies accounts, which have long taken last-minute budget reductions, the board decided to add back funds to buy a new stage curtain to replace the torn one now in use and to purchase needed replacements for aging musical instruments at the high school and middle school.
The $450,000 increment for high-cost special education students embedded in the proposed budget will pay for known students who were either identified or moved to the district in the current year. This spending bump alone represents two percent of the board's total proposed increase.
This week the Town Meeting will be asked to act to approve a $450,000 special appropriation for the current budget year to pay for services and outplacement expenses of these same special education students with extraordinary needs. If that expenditure is approved and added to the amount approved by the May 2013 budget referendum, the 2013-2014 schools' budget would stand at $16,315,237.
If the adjusted 2013-'14 budget, assuming the $450,000 special appropriation were added in, is compared to the Board of Education-approved 2014-'15 budget, the proposal would increase spending by 3.54 percent.
The Board of Education and the superintendent of schools presented their approved budget to the Board of Finance (BOF) at the BOF's workshop meeting on March 19. The Town Meeting to consider action on the $450,000 special appropriation was held on March 24 (visit www.zip06.com/westbrook for meeting results).