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November 08. 2012 1:22PM

Salem schools seeking $1.6M budget increase

SALEM – With an increase of $1.6 million anticipated in the coming year, Salem school officials said things could have been much worse in light of recent changes to the state retirement system.

On Nov. 3, Salem Superintendent Michael Delahanty shared details of next year’s proposed $60.7 million district budget with School Board members at Salem High School.

“Given what we’ve experienced in the past, I think this is a very modest increase,” Delahanty said.

The district expects to spend $785,620 in retirement costs next year: of that amount, around $762,000 is attributed to recent legislation shifting retirement costs to the school district.

During last year’s school facilities audit, the district came up short, with about $10 million in deficiencies noted in the high school alone. Delahanty said about $500,000 would be needed next year to meet ongoing routine maintenance needs in the district’s aging schools.

On the brighter side, the district has been able to save money in several other areas last year, with further savings anticipated in the coming year.

Concessions made during the district’s most recent collective bargaining agreements will result in an expected $20,231 cost decrease next year, while several students have transitioned out of the district’s special education program, accounting for another $450,485 in savings.

District-wide prudency with utilities will reduce the schools’ electrical bills by an expected $122,703, and Delahanty said the district was able to reduce its costs per kilowatt by renegotiating the existing electrical contract.

The superintendent is urging the School Board to consider investing an annual $240,000 in technology updates, with a three-year lease proposed for the purchase of high-tech calculators, interactive whiteboards and other such items.

“For those people who think it’s foolish for students to be using these, they don’t understand what calculators do today. These aren’t your grandfather’s calculators, these are very sophisticated machines,” Delahanty said. “We’re looking for new ways to use technology all the time.”

Further down the road, one goal is to add a fourth kindergarten session next year. The superintendent said the need is evident based on the high success of the district’s all-day kindergarten program, which began early last year.

“We’ve found that after a year of kindergarten, more students are working at grade level and beyond compared to when we had no kindergarten,” he added.
Budget workshops will continue this month.


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