Those employees of the Town of Belmont and those citizens who have lived through many more budget seasons than have I know all too well that the school year budget is never over until the final gavel rings at Town Meeting, this year on June 3. Even then, the Legislature may add or detract (usually add); and subsequent adjustments have to be endorsed by the School Committee. Furthermore, in the course of the school year, there are always revisions and realignments, reviewed by the new finance subcommittee of the School Committee, and incorporated into the quarterly reports presented publicly at the School Committee meetings and to the Warrant Committee.
What I had described as a “dire” budget submission six weeks ago I now describe as “constrained.” There have been some considerable adjustments proposed by Town Administrator David Kale and presented to the Board of Selectmen. The adjustments bring us much closer to what we had described as a “roll-ahead” budget, funding that essentially keeps in place next school year what is in place this year. The roll-ahead budget does not provide any of the proposed additions we had originally hoped to have like the new mathematics series, for example, or additional classes at the elementary schools without having to make other adjustments. We are working with donors like the Foundation for Belmont Education to ensure that we do not fall behind on researching and implementing innovation initiatives.
Because we on May 1 still have a projected shortfall of about $180,000, we will refrain from filling two positions being vacated by retirements—one at the Central Office and one at Belmont High School. Additionally, we will cut four class sections at the high school to make up the additional four-fifths of a position we need to trim to balance the budget. Because we must have a fifth second grade at the Wellington, we are eliminating the grade-level aides that had been at the school. We are also using the savings from the aides to support at least a half-time assistant principal for the Wellington. We will continue to cap new enrollments at the Wellington.
Over the next several months, the School Committee will be working closely together and with the Board of Selectmen to plan for the long term. We will need to anticipate continued enrollment growth and to stabilize major cost factors. With the Town, we will also need to anticipate the kind of predictable income stream that provides some confidence about economic stability over the ensuing four to five years.