NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

January 18, 2013

Pentucket budget under public review

Officials seeking a 2.5 percent increase for district

(Continued)

His final priority seeks a “future of choice for every student.” He will focus on areas of concentration, allow students to explore early college and career possibilities and continue to foster 21st century skill development.

Of the total proposed budget, 57.9 percent is directed at instructional services, an increase of 3.4 percent over this year.

Insurance and retirement, up by 4 percent, makes up 17.6 percent of the overall budget.

Nursing, transportation and athletics, up by 5.6 percent, account for 6.1 percent. Debt retirement and services drop by 4.7 percent to comprise 5.6 percent of the budget. Operation and maintenance costs, which are rising 5.1 percent, represent 5 percent of the budget.

Tuition paid by Pentucket to other schools is rising 3.1 percent, and will represent 4.7 percent of the budget. Pentucket now sends 39 students to 18 schools outside the district. Next year’s cost factors in an additional out-of-district placement that school leaders are already anticipating.

Spending for central office, School Committee and legal fees is 3.1 percent of the budget, a 15 percent drop over this year. Under Mulqueen’s leadership, legal fees have fallen by as much as $8,000 per month.

The proposed budget assumes level funding in state aid and grant revenues. State aid accounts for more than one-third of the budget, so reductions in this area are shifting more of the burden for funding education to the local taxpayer, said Bergeron, who joined the district in September.

Next year’s spending plan will again depend on $400,000 from the district’s Excess and Deficiency account. But Bergeron called the account “an unstable revenue source” on which the district should not continue to rely.

The budget stays within the Proposition 21/2 levy limit for community contributions. While Mulqueen acknowledged that some school supporters are urging him to fight for higher funding for education, he said he does not believe the district should be seeking overrides annually to fund its operational budget. He said funding requests beyond what is allowed under Proposition 21/2 should be for larger-scale projects or emergencies only.

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