GROTON — The Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee has voted to reduce its proposed budget for fiscal year 2007 of $33,421,977 in order to meet officials’ request in both towns to keep new spending under control.
The final figure to be presented to residents for approval at the annual town meeting is $32,915,642. The new amount represents an overall 3 percent increase during 2006, down from talk of an increase that could have gone as high as 6 percent, which had been whittled down to 4.6 percent before the April 12 vote.
The decision trims $125,000 off the operating portion of the budget and cuts Groton’s individual assessment from $12,608,230 to $12,512,468 marking an overall increase over 2006 of $465,298. Dunstable’s assessment has gone from $3,683,495 to $3,654,258 an increase over 2006 of $145,443.
The reductions represent increases in spending over FY06 of 3.86 percent for Groton and 4.15 percent for Dunstable. That brought the final total within the limits of the request made by the towns at a joint meeting between school and municipal officials.
“I’m very disappointed,” said School Committee candidate Paul Funch. “You’ve set your sites low and you’ve hit the target.”
“It’s not a budget I celebrate,” said a resigned Superintendent of Schools Alan Genovese, who lamented the cuts and “things that won’t get done” as a result of the reduction.
With the committee’s decision to amend its spending request for 2007, the pressure on cash-strapped Dunstable will be released, freeing town officials from the threat of having to ask residents for an override in order to meet their obligations to the school system.
However, there was some good news for school officials last week when Craig Young, the district’s director of business and finance, reported that early projections indicated that the district will have a $90,125 surplus by the end of the current fiscal year.
“The school district has been able to meet numerous budgetary challenges this school year,” reads a quarterly report summary submitted to the committee. “Higher-than-expected energy prices, unanticipated special education tuition costs, legal costs and teacher negotiations have all combined to impact this year’s budget. At present, it is projected that the school district is on budget and will finish the year with a slight unexpended balance.”
Among the reasons for the surplus, states the report, is “the continued rise in interest rates Interest income has exceeded our original estimates.”
The report also stated that the reimbursement of $564,000 from the state for special education tuition, $250,000 from early childhood and kindergarten tuitions and $30,000 in school choice tuitions also contributed to the surplus figure.
With the surplus funds, Young reported that money in the excess and deficiencies account available for use in emergencies and in helping to set the district’s bond rating has climbed to $767,564.
“In general, I’m very pleased,” said Genovese.