The head of the Pentucket Regional School District expects a tight spending plan this this year, citing higher operating, utility and state-mandated costs and following a year of layoffs and cuts in sports programs.
Pentucket Superintendent Justin Bartholomew, a recent guest on WHAV’s “Win for Breakfast” show said residents can weigh in tomorrow night during a public hearing on spending for the next school year. He noted the impact on last year’s failed Proposition 2 ½ override vote on the budget.
“Last year, we had to lay off 12 teachers. We cut all freshman and JV2 sports. We also had to cut some para-educators. So, it was a pretty significant number, and we saved positions by raising fees. We had to increase athletic fees, significantly. We doubled those, and then we also had to increase before and after school program fees and now you’re impacting young families, which is less than ideal,” he said.
Bartholomew said state-required spending is expected to make matters worse.
“And, you combine that with what we always see coming out are are these mandates. There was a huge increase in private schools for special education students—14%. That is a staggering number to most districts in the North Shore. That equates on an average to something like $428,000 above and beyond. That number by itself will cause big problems in school districts. So, we’ll see how things unfold,” he said.
Residents may participate in the planning starting with a hearing tomorrow, Feb. 14, at 6 p.m., in the Pentucket Middle School-High School dining common.
“People don’t have to sign up. They can just come and talk about what their concerns are in terms of the budget or what they want to see in the budget. It’s kind of like an open mic. The chair will call on people and let them talk for the first half hour or so. It’s a great opportunity for the community to show up and talk through some of their concerns and interact. The one time in meetings when you can actually interact with the School Committee during a public session. Typically, during public comment there is no response, but in a public hearing on a budget they are able to respond. I can respond and the business manager can respond,” he explained.
Bartholomew said projected state aid figures are expected during the next few weeks from Gov. Maura Healey’s proposed state budget. There’s more information about Pentucket Regional School District’s spending at PentucketBudget.com.