On Monday, January 23, 2017, I presented a preliminary budget for the Lenox Public Schools for the 2017-2018 school year. Per the guidance of the School Committee and the Town Manager, our administrative team proposed a ‘level-service’ financial plan for our school district.
‘Level service’ means that the school district will not introduce any costly new programs or non-essential new staff next year. The only increases to staff projected are a one-class increase to a part-time teacher and the addition of a paraprofessional to support English learners at the middle and high school. These increases are needed to respond to increased enrollment at the middle and high school over the last two years.
Level service does not mean “level funded.” Costs in a school district, with lots of employees, buildings to maintain, paper to buy, and copiers to fix, are set by contracts and increasing market rates. With 82% of our district expenditures going to employees, increases in contractual obligations to staff makes up a lion’s share of our projected increases. Other areas that will show some increase are related to out-of-district education and transportation costs and some new materials for Science instruction at both schools in response to recent revisions to state standards for Science.
Our budget process is not complicated-despite what the thickness of the budget book may suggest. After eliminating or reducing costs that are no longer needed and after counting up costs that we project to stay the same or to increase, we apply revenues and arrive at a “net” budget. The bulk of revenues are School Choice receipts; which in Lenox, we earn in one year and spend in the next. Doing so allows us to have a very accurate picture of what we may apply to the school budget. Receipts from this year’s Choice enrollment of about 280 students will be applied as almost $1.5 M. Adding other receipts including rents and tuition fees will allow us to apply nearly $1.6M next year. This brings the total net (preliminary) budget to $9,702,240, an increase of about 3.4% over last year.
In Lenox, we feel fortunate to have the support of the community as we provide an effective and high-quality educational experience to our students. Recent recognition such as the US News ‘Gold’ Rating for LMMHS and the US DOE National Blue Ribbon for Morris are a testament to a community that consistently supports public education and quality schools.
If you’d like to know more about the 2017-2018 school district budget for the Lenox Schools, you’ll find my presentation and the entire proposed budget document at http://www.lenoxps.org/budget/. To ask questions or learn more, consider attending the Public Hearing of the Budget, scheduled for March 27 at 7:00 p.m. You’re always invited to contact us at the Superintendent’s office if you have any questions about the budget, the budget process, School Choice, or anything that you might find in the budget materials.