In her presentation of Newton Public Schools’ (NPS) fiscal year 2024 (FY24) budget on Wednesday night, interim superintendent Kathleen Smith said NPS will make budget cuts as a result of the failure of the operating override during the special election on March 14.
Smith said that, despite the result of the override vote, NPS will do as much as possible to lessen the negative impacts from the budget cuts.
“This is why we’re working together,” she said. “It is all about making sure that the students that come in September have the same opportunities.”
The current budget goals show a shortfall of $8 million for FY24 despite a 3.73 percent increase in year-over-year funding allocation from the city, according to Smith.
“Given the size of the budget gap, it simply will not be possible to maintain the same level of service the Newton Public Schools has provided to students in past years,” she said.
NPS still is relying on a carry forward, where left over funds from the previous year are applied to the next fiscal year, which Smith emphasized is not sustainable over time and may negatively impact the school community.
“Closing a $4.9 million budget gap will impact every corner of the Newton Public School organization,” said Smith.
Reductions in resources will occur in extracurricular activities, staffing of teachers and aides, enrichment programming, and more, according to Smith.
Smith utilized the word “reduce” rather than eliminate, emphasizing NPS’ goal of reducing positions or funding in multiple areas to avoid elimination in a single area of the budget.
Special education programs remain a priority for the district despite these reductions and will continue to be expanded, she said.
“While these reductions are painful, we continue to be committed to expanding our special education programs to allow our Newton students to remain in our district schools learning and growing with their friends and peers,” Smith said.
Technology infrastructure also remains a priority to prevent cyber attacks or other technological issues in the district, according to Smith.
She also said that students are still recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the growing student needs that are aftereffects of the pandemic
“Investing in our schools as a primary resource and post pandemic recovery is a key strategy for investing in the well-being of our students and the strength of our entire community,” she said.
The main goal of the budget is to maintain the current services offered to students and build a financially sustainable budget, according to Smith.
“We know how impactful it is, those hours that we have the students and beyond to do everything we can to make sure our students come to school prepared, ready to learn and do everything we can to make their time in Newton Public Schools a success,” she said.
Smith said another factor impacting the crafting of the budget is the loss of one-time funds that came as a result of the pandemic.
NPS will not utilize one-time funds, like funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that the city has utilized in the past, for the upcoming school budget, according to Smith.
“We see parents filling the buildings, we have performances, we have sports; all of those things make us feel very good about what’s happening in the future, but at the same time with some of the funds that have allowed us to come out of this pandemic,” she said. “They are not going to be there as we go forward.”
Smith said that the result of the March 14 vote was disappointing.
“I cannot tell you that I am not disappointed in the operation override failing,” she said. “I think, again, it would have done so much and I want you to think about that as we go through this budget.”
Smith said that the upcoming budget proposal will still prioritize NPS’ goals.
“[The budget] supports a well-rounded academic program with opportunities for support and advancement,” Smith said. “And that’s important because I want you to hear again that although we’re going to talk about these deficits, we’re doing everything we can to make sure our students have opportunities that the Newton community expects, although you will understand the reductions.”
More in-depth presentations regarding specific aspects of the budget will occur in the coming weeks, Smith said.
“So hopefully going forward, as difficult as that is, we all come together,” she said. “We support whatever the budget is, meaning that what we have before us is an opportunity to go that extra mile.”