School Budget Deliberations Underway

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The Board of Education is about halfway through deliberations on its 2024-25 budget, with one more workshop and one more public forum to go before taking a vote on January 23.

The budget request submitted by the district administration calls for a 3.53 percent increase in operating costs, rising just over $2 million to just under $60 million for the year ($59,989,159 to be exact).

Nearly $1.6 million of the $2 million rise, about 75 percent, comes from contractual wage increases and benefits. As always, salaries and benefits account for 79 percent of the total education operating budget.

Key priorities

Top educational priorities described by Superintendent Lisa Barbiero in her presentation to the board on January 4 include “major initiatives” on math and reading, continuing a phase-in of new curricula that will extend into 2025.

Central to those initiatives are Curriculum & Instruction Leaders (CILs), who coach teachers, assist in curriculum design and implementation, and assess outcomes based on student data. Last year’s budget increased the total number of full-time CILs to six. Another six fulfill the role on a half-time basis. The superintendent intends to maintain that model in the coming year.


The budget anticipates a decline in enrollment next year for the district as a whole, a drop of 28 students in total. (That figure includes seven fewer pre-school students.) The rise and fall of enrollment varies by school and grade level.

At Hurlbutt Elementary (not including pre-school) and Weston High School, the total number of students is projected to be relatively flat.

At Weston Middle School, enrollment is expected to drop by 36 students, mostly in seventh grade. At the same time, Weston Intermediate School is expected to see 23 more students overall, largely driven by the addition of 25 new fifth grade students.

Capital expenditures

The timing of the budget cycle does not favor precision when it comes to cost estimates for capital improvements, so in the week between the January 4 presentation and the Board of Education’s second budget workshop, the total estimated need rose to $1.4 million.

Barring cuts or deferments, that number could grow higher. Estimates for several items are ballpark figures, and three of the 17 are marked “TBD.”

The largest item is $330,000 for school security, which would be specific physical measures that will not be openly discussed in detail. (Last June, the Board of Finance drew $350,000 from reserves for similar purposes, only describing the enhancements as designed to “keep the fight outside” if the unthinkable happened.)

Other major items include campus-wide paving, coming in at $170,000, at least for now. Phillip Cross, the district’s finance director, said he intends to seek economy and coordinate with the Town and its consulting road engineers to develop a comprehensive plan.

Other six-figure items appear to be among the many core infrastructure cans that have been kicked down the road for years: HVAC systems at the middle school ($155,000), repairs to the high school courtyard ($100,000, a safety issue, said Ms. Barbiero), air units at Hurlbutt’s East House and South House ($150,000), and boiler and pump replacements at Hurlbutt ($120,000).

Next steps

The Board of Education holds the second and final public forum on January 18 at 6:00 pm. On the 22nd, the board conducts its final workshop, and is scheduled to meet and approve its final request the next day.

The Board of Selectmen reviews the school district budget in mid-February and passes it on to the Board of Finance, with or without recommendations. The Selectmen have no say on the school budget, but the capital budget is eventually a combination of Town and Board of Education requests.

The Board of Finance begins its review of the education budget on March 6.

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