Wednesday, May 8, 2013
School Budget in Flux as State Lawmakers Hash Out Final Numbers

The $2.1 million increase in the schools budget approved by the School Committee earlier this year could see adjustment depending on movement between the House and Senate on Beacon Hill.

"Continued uncertainty of the state budget" means that Braintree is taking a conservative approach to boosting funding for additional elementary school teachers, beyond what was laid out this winter, Superintendent Dr. Peter Kurzberg said earlier this week.

Along with looking to the Senate, which is scheduled to produce its Chapter 70 education numbers later this month, the school department is working to identify supplemental funding through its own sources. Those include savings due to retirements and when educators do not meet anticipated salary-boosting education goals, and money from out-of-district students in the language-based program.

The budget could fluctuate even after the Town Council reviews it and votes later this month. Members of the Committee on Ways & Means are scheduled to examine the school budget Wednesday evening at Town Hall.

Last summer, Braintree used an additional $237,000 in the final budget, money that was above and beyond what it budgeted originally, to help fund several positions.

Sen. John Keenan, in a presentation with Rep. Mark Cusack to the School Committee Monday night, said he and Sen. Brian Joyce will advocate for additional Chapter 70 money in the Senate's budget proposal, beyond what the House has approved.

The House subtracted from Gov. Deval Patrick's local aid numbers, resulting in a proposed $13.7 million in education funding for Braintree, up $135,325 over last year. That is significantly less than the boost from 2012 to 2013, which was just more than $1 million. Patrick's proposal would bring Braintree to $14.7 million.

During last year's budget wranglings on Beacon Hill, the final document produced the higher education number, proposed by the Senate, which resulted in that $237,000 boost for Braintree.

"I don't think you'll see the Governor's numbers," Keenan said. "I think you'll see numbers closer to the House. The Senate is hard-pressed to do anything lower than that."

In addition to education, the House has approved nearly $5 million for Braintree in unrestricted local aid, an increase of $114,408. The House and Senate came together on Chapter 90 transportation funding and approved nearly $1.5 million for Braintree, a half million dollar hike over last year.

“I am happy that we are committing even more money to Chapter 70 education funding and unrestricted local aid,” Cusack said in a statement. “This will go a long way in helping us get more teachers and resources into our classrooms.”