LEE -- The Lee School Committee has endorsed eliminating two educational positions as part of the new school budget for fiscal 2015.
The seven-member committee this week unanimously supported the proposed $8.23 million spending plan, which calls for an increase of about 1.1 percent, or $93,000, over the current fiscal $8.14 million budget. If approved at the Annual Town Meeting in May, the school budget hike would be the smallest since the nearly level-funded budget for fiscal 2011. The new budget year begins July 1.
In order to minimize the increase, the school board agreed -- through attrition -- to remove the curriculum director post, vacant since January and to leave unfilled a Lee Middle and High School teaching position opening up due to retirement.
While dropping the curriculum director from the payroll will save tens of thousands of dollars, interim schools Superintendent Alfred Skrocki noted some of the job's duties need to be fulfilled. He says $20,000 would be set aside in fiscal 2015 as stipends for staff to work on curriculum matters.
Skrocki said the fiscal 2015 budget still has to balance the needs of the students with what taxpayers can afford. Since 2003, the Lee school budget has risen $1.81 million -- a 29 percent spike in expenditures -- as student enrollment has dropped nearly 20 percent during the same period.
Meanwhile, Lee school officials will implement a back-up plan to address the Lee Public Schools' problem of aging, inefficient computers.
Last month, town officials refused to support a nearly $100,000 technology upgrade for the 2014-15 academic year. The capital expenditure included spending over a three-year period about $75,000 for 80 laptop computers replacing outdated desktop computers used by teachers.
Skrocki says the revised strategy calls working within the district's new operational budget to keep the best available computers working.
"We have 42 laptops that are six to seven years old and they are becoming difficult to use," he said. "We plan to replace them with existing desktop [computers]."
The only item from the $100,000 request going before Annual Town Meeting is an $8,500 expenditure to upgrade the security system at both the elementary and middle and high schools
At the request of town officials, the School Committee also pared back its proposed capital expenditure to replace the crumbling sidewalk curbing at both schools. The original proposal of $96,000 has been reduced to nearly $22,400 enough to cover partial replacement of curbing at Lee Elementary. The project is also subject to town meeting approval next month.
To reach Dick Lindsay:
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