Bridgewater-Raynham Schools Face $5.6 Million Budget Deficit

The Bridgewater-Raynham Regional School Committee is grappling with a projected $5.6 million deficit in the upcoming fiscal year 2025 budget. This was the focal point during the recent meeting, where the budget subcommittee chair presented the proposed budget of $96,820,460, emphasizing alignment with the Student Success plan amidst financial constraints from the two towns’ differing increases in assessments.

The proposed budget faced intense scrutiny as the committee delved into specifics, including significant cost drivers such as transportation, out-of-district and special education costs, utilities, health insurance, and contractual increases. The budget subcommittee chair urged for a conservative budget that both towns could support, given the financial challenges and a 2% increase in contributions from one town and 5% from the other.

The discussion expanded on the necessity of a conservative budget and highlighted the upcoming key dates, including the Bridgewater Town Council meeting on May 7th and the Raynham Town Meeting on May 20th, where the budget would be sent for approval. A scheduled budget subcommittee meeting on March 25th was mentioned to allow for feedback and necessary revisions before the final vote.

Concerns were raised over the need to slash $2 million from the budget, leaving a meager $1.5 million, which posed a daunting decision-making process for the committee. The implications of such cuts could lead to increased class sizes and affect services for students with special needs. The committee discussed prioritizing budget cuts, particularly concerning positions, and the potential impact on staff and students, stressing the importance of approving a bottom-line budget number while entrusting operational decisions to the superintendent. Negotiations with unions and the uncertainty of state funding were also cited as influential factors on the final budget.

The committee addressed the increased transportation costs, a budget stressor, examining the effects of increased enrollment that necessitates additional buses and vans, fluctuating fuel prices, and the potential requirement for bus monitors. The estimated amount to be submitted to the state for additional students’ transportation was analyzed, alongside the number of positions coming onto the budget due to federal funding.

The public comment segment of the meeting saw passionate appeals for more funding for music programs. This spurred further discussion on prioritizing social and emotional health and the pursuit of alternative funding avenues.

A debate emerged over the stabilization fund, akin to a savings account for the district, with discussions centered on how much to allocate to the fund as the district has never reached the 5% threshold of their total budget. The committee also considered using end-of-year funds for material purchases for the following year and evaluated the number of open positions for the upcoming year, estimated at 10 to 15. It was highlighted that school choice is not a revenue source for the district, which loses money on it every year.

During public comments, concerns were voiced over the impact of the hiring freeze, especially in special education classrooms. A participant, identified as both a parent and teacher, urged the committee to consider individual needs and classroom numbers before committing to a hiring freeze for vital positions. Another speaker, also a teacher, called for support from the towns in light of changes in local leadership, emphasizing the need for advocacy for the district’s funding to prevent larger class sizes and related challenges.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.
Ryan T. Powers
School Board Officials:
Laura Conrad-Laberinto, Timothy Fitzgibbons, Catherine Martelli, Michael Dolan, Rachel King, Louis D’Amarino, Cleonie Mainvielle, Jessica Davenport

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