Superintendent Presents Budget Priorities for What Could be a Challenging Year

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Charlie Breitrose

Interim Superintendent John Brackett, gave the School Committee the budget priorities for next school year. He is show here with Assistant Superintendent Theresa McGuinness.

Charlie Breitrose

Interim Superintendent John Brackett, gave the School Committee the budget priorities for next school year. He is show here with Assistant Superintendent Theresa McGuinness.

The Watertown School budget could be a tight one during the 2017-18 school year, Interim Superintendent John Brackett told the School Committee Monday night. He added that any additions to the budget might require reductions other places.

The budget process started in December with subcommittee hearings, and Monday night Brackett presented the budget priorities to the entire School Committee.

“The days of adding programs or staff without looking at what we are doing, I think, are beyond us,” Brackett said. “The budget is being pressured just to keep level services.”

He added that when school officials look at any additions to the budget, they will also have to identify offsets to make up the difference.

Among the biggest expenses, or drivers, of the budget include salaries, expanding professional development for staff and technology improvements. Brackett highlighted two key areas in the budget.

Keeping class sizes small and consistent is one of the biggest commitments made by the Watertown Public Schools, Brackett said. The district has goals to keep classrooms at or below a certain number of students, and are typically lower in the earlier grades.

“It not only has an impact in the classroom but also on the budget. It is probably the single largest budge driver we have,” Brackett said. “Budget drivers are not necessarily negative. They can be positive.”

Special education also remains one of the biggest areas of spending in Watertown. This includes both programs run by the town’s schools and the out-of-district programs.

“It is a significant cost,” Brackett said. “It is north of $5 million a year for out of district tuition.”


Brackett also included the priorities and values which the district will build the Fiscal Year 2018 budget.

One of the district’s priorities is identifying the achievement gaps and student learning gaps, Brackett said, and how the schools can address them. To help teachers accomplish this, a priority is to provide teachers with “user friendly” data on literacy and math to help them work with students on problem areas and to adjust their instruction.

Another goal is improving communication between various groups in the district.

“We are trying to do a better job building relationships between and among the School Committee and all staff,” Brackett said. “And build a stronger relationship with Town officials, parents and the community.”

In addition, school officials will continue to work on improving the district’s facilities and infrastructure. A facilities master plan was recently submitted to the School Committee, and they will work on the next steps toward renovating the town’s schools. In the meantime, the district will work on other improvement projects at Watertown’s schools.

Interim Business Manager Mary DeLai provided the School Committee with the FY18-22 Capital Plan, which includes $642,250 for Fiscal 2018. The School’s Capital Plan will be sent to the Town Council’s Budget and Fiscal Oversight Committee to consider as part of the town’s overall Capital Improvement Plan.

The projects recommended by school officials for Fiscal 2018 (2017-18 school year) include:


  • Replace Classroom Furniture: $15,000
  • Perimeter Window Seals on the Old Building $15,000


  • Replace Classroom Furniture $20,000


  • Replace Classroom Furniture $15,000
  • Replace Building Carpet (first half) $125,000

Middle School

  • Replace Classroom Furniture $20,000

High School

  • Replace Classroom Furniture $20,000
  • Replace Hot Water Heaters $30,000
  • Repair Windows/Screens $52,000
  • Replace Carpet (Library and Auditorium) $70,000
  • Auditorium Repairs/Painting $70,000
  • Roof Repairs $20,000
  • Additional A/C for Main Office $52,500
  • Enhance Wireless Capacity $50,000

Phillips School

  • HVAC Upgrades $30,000


  • Update Food Service Equipment $17,750
  • Security System Enhancements $20,000

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