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AYER — Leadership teams in both school buildings are spotlighting program growth and eyeing educational enhancements as the annual budget process gets underway, interim Superintendent of Schools George Frost said in a recent interview.

Although “financial drivers” can be identified and may steer the schools’ course in any given year, Frost said, they don’t define its direction. Education, he explained — from curriculum to the number and variety of subject offerings — is the pillar of the $10.9 million budget for fiscal year 2010.

“The idea is to improve opportunities for students,” Frost said.

But practical parameters determine what is affordable.

“We’d love to add a half-million dollar’s worth” of needs-based increases right out of the gate,” he said, but instead the planners are faced with cost-saving scenarios that could ultimately lead to personnel cuts.

To avoid that, “we’re determined to spend time carefully assessing the budget to look for revenue,” Frost said. Increasing student fees, for example, is an unpleasant prospect but may be necessary.

Frost said that before delving deeper into school budget details in this cycle, he’d like to get a sense from the tri-boards about the way the financial wind is blowing, townwide.

“Once we see what the breakout looks like, we can plan a sensible approach working with the town,” he said.