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$41.3M budget OK'd, a 3.25 percent hike.

Byline: Donna Boynton

WESTBORO - The School Committee last night approved a $41.3 million budget for fiscal 2013, and while the budget largely maintains services and programs, the final figure is dependent upon the district's ability to raise more than $200,000 in additional fees.

The fiscal 2013 budget - $41,282,909 - is an increase of 3.25 percent above this year's budget of $39,982,853. The fiscal 2013 budget was pared from the original request of $42.1 million, which was a 5.16 percent increase over the current budget.

The fiscal 2013 budget, which follows years of less than 2 percent increases, includes $181,400 for new positions that Superintendent Marianne O'Connor characterized as "must dos": two English Language Learner teachers that equals a .9 full-time equivalent; a behavioral analyst; a math and science curriculum coordinator; and a computer tech.

The approved budget also saves two existing full-time teaching positions that were threatened to be cut - a Grade 7 teacher at the Gibbons School, and a Grade 5 teacher at the Mill Pond School.

"I don't consider

our schools an expense; they are an asset to this town," said School Committee member Jody Hensley. "This budget can help hold on to the excellence of our schools and get through to better times."

The budget, however, does cut one high school teacher and a 1.5 full-time equivalent secretary. The budget also does not include other needed new positions such as a Grade 4 reading specialist.

The fiscal 2013 budget is predicated on the school district's ability to raise $210,000 in additional fees. Those fees include activities fees, facility use fees, pre-K and kindergarten tuition and transportation fees.

School Committee member Steve Doret made the motion to approve the $41.3 million budget, and it was seconded by School Committee member Bruce Tretter.

While the budget was unanimously approved by the School Committee, some members had doubts if the district could raise the additional fees hoped for.

School Committee member Ilyse Levine-Kanji unsuccessfully sought to amend the motion to approve the budget by reducing the fees to be raised to $110,000 - increasing the bottom-line budget to $41,382,909. She said that was a more realistic number and that if the fees sought couldn't be

raised, the two existing teaching positions would have to be cut after all.

School Committee Chairman Karen Henderson supported Ms. Levine-Kanji, saying she did not believe the $210,000 could be raised without implementing a transportation fee, which she did not support at this time.

School Committees members said last night thatfurther budget cuts would limit or eliminate programs.

The School Committee budget will be delivered to Town Manager James Malloy and the Finance Committee Dec. 21.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Dec 15, 2011
Next Article:Chief clarifies `insulting' report.

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