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Schools ask for 6% budget increase next year

The Baker School in Brookline. Photo courtesy of Baker School Extended Day.
January 23, 2024

Brookline’s superintendent has requested $138.6 million to fund the town’s school district in 2024-25, which would be a 6% increase over this year’s budget and approximately $940,000 over the district’s forecasted allocation from the town for next year.

The request, laid out by Deputy Superintendent for Administration and Finance Susan Givens during last week’s School Committee meeting, kicks off a months-long budget process that will culminate in a final budget request to Town Meeting in May.

The initial request calls for adding the equivalent of 8.2 full-time positions, five of which would be allocated to teaching positions at the high school, which has seen an abnormally high number of large classes this year. The district also hopes to add a paraprofessional at Pierce, a middle school teacher at Baker, and move a guidance counselor at Lawrence from part-time to full-time. The district also plans to hire an associate athletics director for the high school, which will be financed through last year’s successful override.

Increased staffing to cover the Brookline Early Education Program’s move to full-day instruction will be covered by tuition, rather than by the district’s operating budget.

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The district does not intend to cut any teaching positions, but is requesting to cut one position in human resources according to its initial request.

Approximately two-thirds of the $7.9 million increase in this year’s request is driven by contractually-mandated increases to existing employees’ salaries, according to a presentation given during last week’s meeting by Givens.

Outside of salaries, the two largest increases by category are for tuition to private special education programs and for private transportation costs.

The $598,935 increase for special education tuition, a 15% jump from this year, stems from a statewide 14% inflation-related increase in the portion of tuition school districts owe.

The $571,099 increase for private transportation, a 14% bump from this year, may go up or down depending on transportation contracts that the district is in the process of securing, Superintendent Linus Guillory said.

By percentage, the largest increase by category is for claims and settlements, which the district is projecting will nearly double, from $250,000 to $486,080.

Givens did not respond to follow-up questions from Brookline.News about the projected rise in private transportation costs and settlement payouts.

District administrators cautioned against making comparisons between different schools because the way money is allocated has changed.

During last week’s meeting, Guillory said his initial request does not account for additional expenses that will likely arise over the coming months, including to fund extra staff to run the Pierce School across two campuses during the first year of its scheduled rebuild.

“As we move through the budgeting process, there will be additional asks that are currently not on the table that some will request be included,” Guillory said. “We will have to consider what comes in and what goes out.”

At Thursday’s meeting, some School Committee members expressed concern about whether an increase of the equivalent of five full-time teaching positions at the high school would be enough to address the high number of large classes this year. Next year’s high school enrollment is projected to be about the same as this year’s.

At a November 2023 school subcommittee meeting, Hal Mason, the high school’s assistant head of school, said the high school would need up to ten more full-time teaching positions to address the high number of large class sizes seen this year.

Contacted last week, Mason referred questions on the budget to central administrators. Givens did not respond to Brookline.News request for further comment.

Last week, Mariah Nobrega, the chair of the School Committee’s finance subcommittee, advocated for decreasing the number of sections at some K-8 schools with particularly small class sizes to reallocate those teachers’ salaries elsewhere.

“We’re already still a million dollars in the hole at this point,” Nobrega said. “This is the period of time during the year in which we have to talk about these things and make the hard decisions.”

Over the next four months, the School Committee and district administrators will hammer out the details of the district’s final budget request. A public hearing on the budget is set for February 1.