Regardless of what happens and has been happening in Washington, many school districts such as Chelmsford will feel the hit of the looming sequester.
However, Chelmsford Public School business manager Kathy McWilliams, says Chelmsford's schools are still planning on the status quo.
“We start with what our budget was in 2013, and what we’re allotted this year. The Town Manager (Paul Cohen) requested a level service budget and three percent increase, and that equals $1.4 million,” McWilliams said. “The money will be spent on the teachers and staff and then we have an operational cost of $600,000 that we have to mandate.”
The cost of Special Education for Chelmsford students also plays a big factor into any budget increase according to McWilliams.
“We’re trying to say we can live within our means all the time, close to a three percent increase, but it does appear difficult if I want to add programs, and I can never know the special needs tuitions all the time,” she said.
One of the other possible generators discussed was the option for more School Choice slots. Chelmsford Superintendent Dr. Frank Tiano said that for the past three years, the District would accept students from other communities for a fee. But with the projected increased enrollment, Tiano felt comfortable to make the recommendations for more open slots.
“It’s a great way to generate revenue and it helps out our student culture. We have looked at next school year’s enrollment projections, and based on enrollment, based on size, what we did at the time is we opened the first few slots were slated for (Chelmsford High School),” he said.
A recommendation by Tiano for fifteen additional school choice students to come to Chelmsford unanimously passed that evening. Some of Tiano’s suggestions included five open slots at the McCarthy School (Grades five-seven), seven slots at the Parker School grade six, seven or eight, and three slots at CHS (Grade nine).
Jennifer Sneringer, a Lowell resident who works for the Lowell Public Schools spoke at the School Committee Meeting, and mentioned that while she was happy with the Lowell Schools as a whole, she felt that the Chelmsford Schools had what her Son, who is a sophomore, needed as far as music and theater were concerned.
“If he were a Division One athlete, then Lowell would be a great fit. My son is interested in music and theater and the arts programs in Chelmsford are fantastic. I would the opportunity for my son to be part of that program," said Sneringer. “My son is a wonderful student. He is not a discipline problem in any way. I just think that he would benefit from a school that offers more diverse programs in music and arts. I understand that we’re all in budget constraints, and there are tough decisions to be made.”
The proposed Fiscal Year '14 budget is available on the School Department website.