PORTSMOUTH — The School Committee Monday night unanimously approved a $43.3 million budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year that calls for an overall increase of 2.6 percent in expenditures over the …
PORTSMOUTH — The School Committee Monday night unanimously approved a $43.3 million budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year that calls for an overall increase of 2.6 percent in expenditures over the current spending plan.
The package, about $1.1 million more than the current budget of $42.2 million, would require a town appropriation — what is required of taxpayers — of $37.3 million, a 3.66-percent increase.
The district’s budget now goes to the Town Council, which will review the spending plan next month.
The spending package approved Monday was the third and final draft of the school budget. The first one represented a 4.4-percent hike in expenditures and a 6 percent increase in the town appropriation. That draft included personnel reductions of an assistant principal at the high school, and half of a payroll clerk position in central administration, as well as outsourcing bus monitors to First Student.
The second draft represented a 3.3-percent increase in expenditures and a 4.7-percent increase in the town appropriation. More positions were cut for that proposal: a full-time science teaching position at the high school, a full-time special ed position at the middle school, half of a physical education/health position at Hathaway, and the equivalent of 1.2 elementary nurse assistants.
Additional personnel cutbacks for the final draft budget included .4 reductions in the positions of elementary speech therapy, district math coach, and instructional systems coach at the high school.
After Chris DiIuro, the district’s director of finance and personnel, presented an overview of the latest budget draft, Superintendent Thomas Kenworthy told the committee than “a 2.6-percent increase in expenditures … we think is as good as we can get it.”
Complicating things is the reduction in state aid the district anticipates for next year. School Committee Chair Emily Copeland said Portsmouth is expecting to lose more than $253,000 in aid next year, under the governor’s proposed budget.
“After being on the committee for 10 years, I think I can say this is the toughest budget season we’ve seen,” Copeland said. “This is just crazy. School districts just can’t deal with these fluctuations.”
She pointed out that, as reported by The Portsmouth Times in February, the local district is second to last in the state when it comes to the amount of state educational aid it receives per pupil — just over $1,600.
The formula calculates how much a particular community is able to fund its educational programs itself by using a quadratic formula that’s based on how much taxable property a community has per student. The town has 50 percent more taxable properties and far fewer students than Barrington, which is partly why that town receives about $3,197 in state aid per pupil.
Kenworthy said it’s still unclear what kind of state aid the district will receive next year, however. The district could, in fact, take less of a hit than expected as it did last year, when Portsmouth ended up getting about $100,000 more in state aid than anticipated.
If that happens, Copeland said she hopes the Town Council will allow that money to stay in the district’s general fund, rather than use it as an excuse to reduce the school allocation.
“I think it will be hard for the town to swallow 3.6 (percent),” said Copeland. The committee needs to emphasize that the district has already made significant cuts has also taken advantage of grant funding to reduce expenditures.