LEE -- The Lee Public Schools may operate with less staff, as a leaner budget is on the horizon for the next school year.
Interim school Superintendent Alfred Skrocki has indicated the Lee School Committee will need to do some belt tightening when he proposes his preliminary school spending plan next week.
While Skrocki wouldn't hint at a possible bottom line, he recently told the committee he's considering a "ballpark" figure of a two percent hike over the current $8.14 million spending plan. That compares to the 3.25 percent budget hike approved last May for the current fiscal 2014.
The seven-member panel expects to receive more details on the propsoed fiscal 2015 budget by its March 11 meeting, followed by the town Finance Committee's initial review of the spending plan on March 12.
Once adopted by the school board, the school budget's bottom line needs final approval from the Annual Town Meeting in May before it takes effect when the new fiscal year begins July 1.
Given the Lee school budget has risen $1.81 million since 2003 -- a 29 percent spike in expenditures -- as student enrollment has dropped nearly 20 percent during the same period, Skrocki says the next spending plan has to balance the needs of the students with what taxpayers can afford.
"There are still some pieces [of the budget] we're looking at to either eliminate or reduce," he said. "We will have to do this differently and maybe with less staff.
Nevertheless, a declining student population in the K through 12 school district doesn't automatically translate into budget cuts, according to officials of the K-12 school district.
"As enrollment goes down, needs of the students keep going up ... better technology and a variety of opportunities for students so they can compete in college and the workforce," Skrocki said.
Meanwhile, Lee school officials have proposed a nearly $100,000 technology upgrade for the 20014-2015 academic year. The capital expenditure calls for spending about $75,000 for 80 lap top computers replacing outdated desktop computers used by teachers.
"This will increase their ability to interact with the students and vice versa," Skrocki noted.
The remaining $25,000 will pay for two new servers, school security replacement equipment and the cost of lease-to-purchase all the technology over the next three fiscal years.
In addition, the School Committee is considering curb and sidewalk replacement in front of both Lee Elementary School and Lee Middle and High School. The estimated cost ranges from $78,000 to $124,000, depending on whether concrete or granite is used for the curbing and if the sidewalks are included.
Granite is more expensive, but could last decades longer than the concrete that began crumbling less than 10 years after the new elementary school was erected behind the renovated and expanded middle/high school on Greylock Street.
The capital budget items are also subject to school board endorsement, review by town officials and final approval at the annual town meeting.
To reach Dick Lindsay:
or (413) 496-6233.