Schools Need $1.75 Million to Maintain Programs, Special Ed Costs Rising

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The Watertown Schools will need $1.75 million more next year to maintain the current staffing and programs, according to school officials, and special education costs are expected to grow in FY 2018 and beyond.

The total FY18 Level Service Budget is $45,332,330 representing a 4 percent increase over FY17 (the current school year), or $1,755,330 more, said Mary C. DeLai, interim Director of Business Services. The amount includes cost of living adjustments and step increases provided in union contracts.

In October, Town Manager Michael Driscoll included a 5 percent increase for the schools in his preliminary FY18 Town Budget.

One area that DeLai anticipates where costs will increase is special education. In a report to the School Committee last month, DeLai said she anticipates the number of special education students to increase from 68 to 78, and the expenses to rise from $5.5 million to $6 million.

Meanwhile, the amount provided by the state for students with high cost services – known as the Special Education Circuit Breaker – will be down nearly $200,000. The State Legislature funds anywhere up to 75 percent of the cost of services through the Circuit Breaker. DeLai said she has heard the expected reimbursement is 70 percent for FY18.

In past years, the Watertown Public Schools has been able to carry forward as much as 93 percent of the Circuit Breaker funds to be available for future years, DeLai said, but the carry over amount is likely to drop sharply.

Last year, the district used 7 percent of the money, this year DeLai anticipates 28 percent of the funds will be used and next year – FY18 – she forecasts that 72 percent will be spent during the year. The following two years, the district could spend all of the Circuit Breakers, leaving no carry over. If this is the case, by FY20, more than half the money spent on special education would come from the school’s general fund, compared to 37 percent in FY18.

On Tuesday, March 7, the School Committee’s Budget and Finance Subcommittee will hear a presentation and discuss the Preliminary FY18 Budget, focusing on District Administration, operations, athletics, and technology budgets. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Innovation Room on the third floor of the Phillips Building, 30 Common St., Watertown.

One thought on “Schools Need $1.75 Million to Maintain Programs, Special Ed Costs Rising

  1. It is going to cost over $75,000 to teach one special needs student for one year ($6,000,000 divided by 78 students)? You could hire a full time assistant for each student for less than that!

    I know the costs covers other things such as materials and classrooms. But it seems excessive.

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