Education Budget Request Trimmed

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In its January 23 meeting, the Weston Board of Education approved a revised operating budget request that reduces the increase to 2.85 percent, trimming nearly $400,000 from the initial ask, which had proposed a 3.53 percent rise.

The budget on its way to the Board of Selectmen for review and the Board of Finance for approval proposes an operating budget of $59,598,328 for fiscal year 2024-25.

In a budget workshop one week earlier, Phillip Cross, the school district’s finance director, said expenses in the current year may come in around $650,000 under budget, “given where we are right now.”

He cautioned that the amount will fluctuate as the year goes on, given unknown costs for repairs to equipment and the district’s fiber optic network (a rodent chewed through an underground cable) and potentially variable special education needs.

Nevertheless, Mr. Cross was confident enough to recommend using a portion of the likely surplus to pre-pay some of next year’s non-recurring expenses, the majority being reading program materials and various textbooks.

Savings and increases

Nearly half of the district’s savings this year come from a lower-than-expected increase of its obligation to the state retirement system. Every year at budget time, both the district and the Town are advised by the state what the rate may be, but the actual only arrives after budgets are set. Sometimes the actual is higher than initially indicated, this year it was lower.

Mr. Cross also said the schools have saved more than $100,000 so far this year on special education, much of it on transportation. But next year, for general in-district transportation, the picture is not so rosy.

Parents with children in Weston schools are notified almost daily of combined school bus runs due to a shortage of drivers. This is, said Mr. Cross, a nationwide problem. To attract workers, bus companies are significantly raising pay, which means higher costs that, like all, get passed on to consumers. Mr. Cross expects an increase of more than ten percent in Weston’s transportation costs, and budgeted accordingly.

Capital, next steps

The Board of Education also approved a request of just over $1.4 million for capital expenditures. The largest single item, $330,000, is for security measures.

Eventually, the district’s capital requests will be combined with those of the Town, submitted to the Board of Finance, and ultimately presented to voters.

The Selectmen discuss the education budget on February 14. The Board of Finance begins its review on March 6 and holds a public hearing on April 2. The Annual Town Budget Meeting (ATBM) is scheduled for April 24 at the Weston High School auditorium.

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