BYFIELD — With budget season underway, Triton Regional School District Superintendent Brian Forget said he hopes to avoid cuts as the district begins hearing presentations from each of the district’s five schools, as well as the central office and other departments.
“My goal at this point is making sure that we are able to maintain all the services that we currently have and not go backwards in any way,” Forget said.
Presentations began last Tuesday with Newbury and Salisbury Elementary schools, along with Pine Grove Elementary in Rowley, going first. A day later, the middle school principal, the high school principal and the athletic director presented.
“And then tonight, we’ll present districtwide technology, student services, curriculum instruction and then just general district operations from salaries and health insurance and all that stuff, too,” Forget said Thursday.
Forget said it is shaping up to be a challenging budgeting season.
“We had a couple years during the pandemic where we had extra federal funding. In a city or town, it was ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) money. For us, it was called federal ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) grants that put a lot of money on the table that helped us provide extra programming, extra supports for students who were struggling,” Forget said.
“And all of that money has either been fully expended or fully committed for other programming this year or into next year. So we are returning back to the normal where we don’t have all those extra pots of funds, if you will.”
A combination of factors have led to what Forget described as “the perfect storm of increases.”
“There’s quite extraordinary increases that we’ll be reviewing with the school committee from special education out of district, to health insurance, to just regular cost of doing business. And we’re currently negotiating with both the teachers and the paraprofessionals bargaining units. So there’s a decent allocation of money set aside to settle those contracts,” Forget said.
He went on to discuss some of the specific increases they estimate the district will face.
“We’re looking at an increase of about $900,000 in out-of-district costs. So that’s a significant impact on our budget,” Forget said.
He added, “For health insurance, we’re assuming a 10% increase at this point.”
With federal funding received during COVID either spent or otherwise allocated, Forget said he hopes to secure a level services budget.
Forget emphasized that a lot can change between now and the budget being finalized on March 15 in terms of numbers and estimates.
Matt Petry covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News of Newburyport. Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.