Lee schools may cut two positions to maintain lean 2015 budget
LEE -- Two educational jobs in the Lee Public Schools are on the fiscal chopping block as part of the district's proposed smallest budget increase in four years.
The Lee School Committee is considering the elimination -- through attrition -- of the curriculum director post, vacant since January and one teaching position opening up due to retirement, according to school officials.
School board member Thomas Consolati says not filling the vacancies will soften the blow of fixed cost increases for fiscal 2015, starting July 1.
"We have some contractual obligations that are above the 1.14 percent," he said during the committee's regular meeting Tuesday night.
Consolati was referring to the proposed 1.14 percent, or $92,800 increase, above the current fiscal 2014 budget of $8.14 million. If approved by the committee and Annual Town Meeting in May, the spending plan hike would be the smallest since the nearly level-funded budget for fiscal 2011.
The seven-member school board and interim school Superintendent Alfred Skrocki will formally present the budget proposal to the Lee Finance Committee for review at 7 p.m. March 19 in Lee Memorial Town Hall.
While dropping the curriculum director from the payroll will save tens of thousands of dollars, 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.
"This is a critical time for all school [districts] as we transition from the state's Education Reform Act of 1993 to Race to the Top," he said referring to the federal government's financial incentive to improve public education nationwide.
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 fiscal 2015 budget still has to balance the needs of the students with what taxpayers can afford.
Meanwhile, Lee school officials have proposed a nearly $100,000 technology upgrade for the 20014-15 academic year. The capital expenditure calls for spending about $75,000 for 80 laptop computers replacing outdated desktop computers used by teachers.
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.
The capital budget items also are subject to school board endorsement, review by town officials and final approval at the annual town meeting.
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