Following the failure of the operating override, Newton Public Schools’ (NPS) proposed fiscal year (FY24) budget includes budget cuts, such as eliminating 56.4 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions, according to interim Superintendent Karen Smith.
NPS will also make cuts to student services and raise fees for parking spaces, extracurricular activities, and more, Smith said when presenting the FY24 budget on Wednesday night.
“I can’t stand here and not talk about some reductions, but we did it across the board, so as to try to move into a budget that we can sustain and eventually build if the need is there to build,” Smith said.
According to the budget proposal presentation, the $9.7 million—or 3.73 percent—increase in city funding does not cover the expense increases in out-of-district tuition, health insurance, van transportation, utilities, and rising student needs, leaving NPS with a $4.9 million budget deficit.
NPS had a $2 million carry forward—which are funds that city officials can appropriate from the previous fiscal year for the next year —from FY23, made possible by the spending and hiring freeze implemented in January, according to the budget proposal. Smith said relying on a carry forward for the next fiscal year, although smaller than it was for FY23, is not a long-term solution.
“This continued reliance on ‘carry forward’ each year creates a structural budget deficit that is unsustainable over time,” the proposal reads.
The largest net year-over-year FTE reductions in the proposed budget—which does include adjustments not caused by the budget deficit—are the 25.3 FTE reduction in elementary education, the 20.4 FTE reduction in secondary education, and the 5.8 FTE reduction in student services, according to the budget proposal.
Smith highlighted the impacts of the budget reductions on various services within schools, pointing out the elimination of disability awareness programming, string lessons, and the reduction of kindergarten aide support in elementary schools, as well as the reduction of elective offerings, classes with smaller enrollments, and extracurriculars for the middle and high schools.
“Again, students will still have opportunities,” Smith said. “It is just a reduction to deal with the deficit before us.”
The proposed budget does increase funding to some budget items, including the STRIDE program at Bowen Elementary School, information technology infrastructure, the restoration of curriculum coordination—including the addition of two FTE—and academic support funding, and the increase in charter maintenance funding, which came from one-time funding in the FY23 budget.
“When you make the reductions that we’re making, it is critical that we offer support from the superintendent and their team to all our department heads, making sure that you are fully resourced to support those principals throughout the district,” Smith said.
She said, however, that the proposed budget does include some unknowns, including contract negotiations with unions, health insurance costs, and enrollment-based need expenses.
In the face of a net $650,000 proposed increase in fees, according to the budget presentation, Smith said NPS’ objective is still to make education accessible to all students.
“No student will be turned away from any program or any opportunity based on financial need,” Smith said during her presentation.
Smith closed her presentation with the timeline for the proposed budget, which includes a public hearing on April 12 and a final vote on the budget on April 27. She encouraged the viewers to remain involved throughout the process.
“It is one of the most important things that is under your umbrella, you know, to work through this with us, and I look forward to meeting and hearing from the very people that are stewards of what happens to our school district,” Smith said.