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By Anne O’Connor

TOWNSEND — The North Middlesex Regional School District passed a budget for fiscal year 2017, but more changes will likely be coming.

The regional school district can lower the amount approved on March 14, School Committee Chairwoman Randee Rusch said, but it will not be able to raise the budget.

“We don’t have solid numbers,” Superintendent of Schools Joan Landers said.

The district is still waiting for insurance costs and state-aid amounts. The district will continue to monitor the state numbers, but may not have them until July, Business Administrator Nancy Haines said.

The budget was broken into three sections. The operating budget is $44,539,659.38. Transportation is $3,109,700. Debt service comes in at $1,144,942,62.

The district plans to use $350,000 from its excess-and-deficiency account.

Since last week, Landers said she has reduced the operating budget by $527,214. The reductions included 3.5 staff positions, cuts to the plant-and-facility budget, technology items, and a lower amount for benefits based on current retiree lists.

An additional $70,000 in revenues was identified. In addition to using $50,000 more from excess-and-deficiency than was planned, the district may see an additional $20,000 in Medicaid reimbursement.

Landers left a new position, a school resource officer at $80,000, in the budget, along with $65,000 to increase bandwidth.

People don’t know what a school resource officer does, said Anne Adams, a Pepperell representative on the committee, and would like to find out more.

Others agreed, and both Landers and Rusch agreed to reach out to an officer in a different district to come in and talk with the committee.

The officer would be someone who students could talk to if they are concerned about a friend, Landers said.

“It’s good to have hard data,” said Jonna Clermont, also a Pepperell member.

The committee passed the budget unanimously.

Board members were also unanimous in voting to approve a planned $10 million bond for the high-school building project. There was no discussion.

Only one member voted against raising the school-lunch price by 10 cents for the next school year.

The elementary-school lunch will cost $2.65. Middle-school and high-school lunches will be $2.90. The increase is an additional $17 per student over the course of the school year, Townsend member Susan Robbins said.

Vice Chairman Will Hackler voted against the increase. He said he would rather see the cost go up to an even $3.00.

The food-service contract will go out for a request for proposal next year, Haines said. Increases to the minimum wage might mean the committee will need to revisit the price in the near future.

Follow Anne O’Connor on Twitter and Tout @a1oconnor.

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