North Middlesex School Budget Seeks 6.27% Increase Amid Concerns

During the latest North Middlesex Regional School Committee meeting, a 6.27% budget increase for the upcoming fiscal year was approved to address various educational challenges and resource needs. This increase is seen as necessary to avoid reductions in staff and after-school activities. However, concerns were raised about the potential for veteran teacher loss due to large class sizes and budget constraints, as well as the future impact of inflation on funding.

Among the discussions, the committee addressed the development of the 2024 Student Opportunity Act (SOA) plan, which is due for submission to the state by April 1st. The SOA plan is designed to address disparities among student subgroups, particularly in special education, and includes strategies for promoting physical and mental health and implementing academic supports. The committee also approved the use of Federal grant supply chain assistance funds to improve the food service and delivery system.

Another development was the unanimous decision to schedule a public hearing regarding the naming of the high school’s Performing Arts Center in memory of late School Committee Member Susan Robbins. Her contributions and advocacy for the school district were highly commended, with Superintendent Morgan and former Committee Member Rob Templeton expressing their admiration for Robbins’ dedication.

During the meeting, a community member proposed enhancing transparency in the school budget process by integrating budget information into the town’s application software. This suggestion led to discussions on improving communication between the school committee and the towns.

In addition to the SOA plan and budget concerns, the committee discussed proposed changes to the roles and responsibilities of school committee members aimed at improving efficiency. Opinions varied on how to implement the changes, with some members advocating for immediate action, while others suggested a more cautious, iterative approach. The committee contemplated introducing the changes incrementally and revisiting them in the future to assess their effectiveness.

Subcommittee updates included the budget subcommittee’s proposal for the necessary budget increase, which also received approval from the finance committee. The policy committee reviewed several policies as part of a five-year process and decided to remove one policy from consideration. Concerns about potential staff reductions were voiced, emphasizing the impact on class sizes and the challenge of retaining educators if budget delays resulted in pink-slipping staff.

The school committee also highlighted the uncertainty surrounding state budget numbers, with no action expected on the Senate’s supplemental budget for at least two more weeks and the House’s numbers anticipated around April 10th. Despite these uncertainties, the committee moved forward with adopting various budgets for fiscal year 2025, including operational, transportation, and debt service budgets, using $245,000 from the excess and deficiency account to offset operational costs.

Additional discussion points included the lack of a middle school foreign language program, the need for more social-emotional programming resources, and the absence of a separate gifted and talented program. The impending loss of academic interventionists, previously funded by Esser post-Covid, was also a concern, along with legislative apprehensions for FY 26 and FY 27 budgets.

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.
Brad Morgan
School Board Officials:
Craig Hansen, June McNeil, Lisa Bloom, David Carney, Thomas Casey, Jessica Ann Funaiole, William Hackler, Lisa Martin, Randee Rusch

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