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Town Finance Director Lorraine Leonard asked that the School Committee submit two separate budgets to the Finance Committee. The first budget should reflect “level funding,” which is level funding minus the benefit costs divided by the full time employees. The second should reflect a 5 percent drop on the bottom line.

“We don’t have our crystal balls” to predict cuts in state aid, said Leonard. One way to work around that is to prune and prioritize the items as they’re cut from the budget. “If we are able to give back some of the benefits, if you prioritize what your cuts are, you’ll know what to restore without having to go back to the drawing board,” she said.

While other town departments are being asked to answer with level and 5 percent-reduction budgets in early December, “they’re probably going to expect yours in January” Leonard told the committee.

The request began a discussion of where committee could cut from their budget to meet the five percent mark.

“I think you need to start cutting French, music and beefing up existing departments,” said Committee member Stu Sklar before clarifying, “I say that only partially tongue-in-cheek. You don’t have to offer French. You don’t have to offer music. I don’t want to see either cut, but people need to start thinking about the ramifications of that to get people upset enough to come out.”

Committee member Piali De disagreed. “There are other options. I’ve got some ideas. Perhaps there are some cost savings that can be had in interesting synergies between HES and Bromfield. There are ways to think differently. We spend over $1 million in ‘curriculum creation.’ I don’t know how that is but that’s what we report to the Department of Education. I can come up with at least another five more. All I’m saying is let’s not every year (continue) doing the same thing.”

The School Committee meets again Monday, Dec. 14.

— Mary E. Arata