Brookline School Board proposes $8.95 million operating budget

BROOKLINE – At a public hearing held on Jan. 28, the Brookline School Board presented warrants for the upcoming March ballot, including an operating budget of $8,949,549 for fiscal 2015.

This represents a 2.5 percent, or $221,200, increase over last year’s budget of $8.7 million.

Major factors driving the budget include higher cost of employee benefits (16 percent), special education expenses (up 64 percent) and a new line item for $30,000 in security upgrades. A line item for $60,000 for kindergarten appears in the budget, which will eventually be offset by anticipated tuition revenues.

School Board member Forrest Milkowski reviewed the budget proposal for the board and the three members of the public in attendance. With the recent installation of new equipment, the meeting at Captain Samuel Douglass Academy was broadcast over the town cable network.

Due to failed collective bargaining negotiations, there are currently no warrant articles being proposed for increased salaries or benefits for support staff or professional staff.

Negotiations reached an impasse on the issue of health insurance plans and employee contributions. Last year’s warrants approved an additional $71,870 for professional staff and $56,798 for support staff.

Milkowski also presented a list of programs and initiatives that saved money during the past year, including $11,000 saved since switching electricity suppliers in 2010, $15,000 saved by changing life insurance carriers and $214,000 in staff reductions in response to lower enrollments. In addition, discretionary line items were reduced by $70,000 (15 percent), the Environmental Science program was restructured to use grant money for a savings of $40,000, and the Food Service department is now self-supporting, which saved $15,000 last year.

These savings have been offset by lower revenues and grants, which declined by $112,031, primarily in the adequate aid funds available to the district.

The $30,000 requested for security upgrades is mostly for improvements at Richard Maghakian Memorial School, including swipe card readers for access and cameras to make sure visitors don’t wander the hallways before reporting to the main office. In addition, because access to the school currently requires the use of several keys, making emergency response difficult, the building is being rekeyed so a single master key will work. CSDA will also add more swipe card readers and security cameras. All schools will be linked to the Hollis Communication Center for emergency dispatch services.

Other proposed warrants include moving $10,000 from the unreserved balance to the maintenance fund, and raising and allocating $255,180 as Brookline’s designated portion of the SAU 41 budget, which stands at $1,348,588.

Combining the proposed operating budget, maintenance fund and SAU assignment warrants yields a total school budget of $9,214,729 being proposed to voters for fiscal 2015. That is a $101,078 or 1.11 percent increase over the $9,113,651 approved last year.