Once again, the Town will include a 5 percent increase in education funding in Watertown’s Fiscal Year 2020 Budget — a $2.4 million increase — but much of that will be required to maintain the current education program and services, along with meeting an increase in the cost of sending students to Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical School.
Last week, the School Committee heard a budget presentation from Superintendent Dede Galdston, who said that all but about $173,000 of the increase would be used on maintaining the level services budget and paying for the increase in Minuteman tuition. Some staff additions are still planned with the remaining money.
Among the additions in the Fiscal 2020 budget are two curriculum coaches at Watertown Middle School: one for literacy and the other for math. Similar positions have been successful in other schools, Galdston said.
“At the elementary level we have literacy and math coaches, and we have seen significant improvements,” Galdston said.
A part-time Spanish teacher for the elementary schools will also be added. The 0.5 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) instructor will teach in the Foreign Language in the Elementary Schools (FLES) program, in which all students take part.
Also, a full-time social worker, who would work at Lowell Elementary School and Watertown Middle School, is included in the budget, Galdston said.
School Administrators have also created a priority list of items that they would fund if more money becomes available. The list can be seen on page the Fiscal Year 2020 School Budget slide presentation — click here to see it.
While the level-service budget maintains the offerings in the current school year (FY2019), it will cost more, Galdston said. It includes raises for staff required by contracts.
Watertown will also budget less in state aide. In the current fiscal year, the Foundation Reserve Grant from the state was cut in half, from $250,000 to $125,000. The lower amount was used in the budget projection for FY2020.
The Town is required to provide a vocational technical education option, and with no program at WHS, most students go to Minuteman High School in Lexington. The cost of sending 65 students from Watertown to the vocational school will increase $468,000 next year, Galdston said. Included in the increase is a 3 percent increase in tuition, a $6,202 capital assessment per student for building the new school at Minuteman, and a $1,100 increase for every special education student.
Another new expense is a $56,761 lease payment for two mini-buses. The Watertown Schools will lease-to-own the buses, which will be used for athletic teams, clubs, field trips, and other school-related activities. They were purchased because they can be driven by people who do not have the commercial driver’s license, which was required for a larger bus owned by the district.