BEDFORD — After voters failed to approve the proposed school district budget at the polls last month, the school board this week was forced to cut $1.3 million from its original spending plan.
In order to accommodate the new default budget of $73.7 million, school officials reluctantly agreed on removing certain items they had originally hoped to include in the upcoming budget.
Among the items cut from the spending plan include nearly $500,000 for new athletic field turf, the removal of a Bedford High School teacher and paraprofessional, and the removal of a district-wide facility manager — all positions that the school board was expecting to add in the upcoming school year.
Also eliminated was funding for new science textbooks at the high school, language arts textbooks at Lurgio Middle School, the resurfacing of gymnasium floors, Chromebooks for paraprofessionals, laptops for teachers, a yoga extension program, a partial stipend for the crew team at the high school and more.
The most debated item that was cut from the budget was $164,500 to renovate the nurse’s office at Memorial Elementary School to incorporate a bathroom facility.
“It was the voters that cut it from the budget and we just can’t come up with the money to fund it in the current situation,” said school board member Bill Kassler. “ … We are just struggling with the fiscal reality in this budget.”
Last month, voters rejected the proposed operating budget of $75 million with 1,747 votes in support and 1,800 votes in opposition. As a result, the district must abide by the default budget of $73.7 million.
Superintendent Mike Fournier said he spoke with all the administrators about the cuts, and they agreed that keeping staff and programs in place was a top priority. While a bathroom for the nurse’s office is important, he said the team agreed that the staff is more vital.
“Everyone wants this, but it is just a matter of what do we feel is going to have the greatest positive impact on our default budget, and we believe that is people, and that is where we have landed,” said Fournier.
School board member Cindy Chagnon voted against the proposed $1.3 million in reductions, primarily because she believes having a bathroom in the nurse’s office at Memorial Elementary School is critical, and would eliminate the need for the nurse to walk students down the hallway to a bathroom and having the nurse’s office temporarily closed during that time.
“I just think that this is absolutely vital,” said Chagnon, adding it is frustrating that some residents do not understand the importance of every line item in the school district’s budget.
“But elections matter,” replied Kassler. “And I do think that the budget was voted down and there is pain, but I don’t think it rises to the level of a critical infrastructure emergency.”