On January 22, 2019, the Madison Board of Education (BOE) approved the 2019-20 school operating budget at $58,048,102. This is a reduction of -0.10% less than the current 2018-19 school operating budget. Over the past three years, the annual budget has increased an average of 2.58% each year. This proposed budget reflects both reduced expenses from the closing of Island Avenue School and staff reductions along with increased costs required to maintain a competitive school program offered in a safe environment.
Decreased expenses reflect staff reductions at the promised ratio of 1 staff reduction for every decline in enrollment of 20 students. The proposed budget additionally reduces two building administrators, helping to finance an increase in student support staff. Reductions also reflect operational and maintenance expenses saved with the closure of Island Avenue, savings the school district will experience year after year. The Island Avenue property will be transferred from the BOE to the town this summer, providing Madison with a valuable income generating asset that will bring approximately $535,000 to the town next year alone.
Next year’s budget is lower than this year’s budget despite salary increases for staff. The negotiated increase with the teachers' union was 2.75%, marginally less than the national 2019 cost of living adjustment (COLA) of 2.8% for social security. Increased outlays also reflect increased insurance costs. These costs increased despite a favorable claims' experience and an increased price sensitivity to health care services on the part of plan participants due to the initiation of a higher deduction amount.
Next year’s proposed budget includes four new employee costs. Again, these positions were offset by additional staffing reductions beyond those reduced for the enrollment decline and the closure of Island Avenue School. The expense of one of our current school safety resource officers will be transferred from the town's budget to the school budget this year. An instructional literacy coach was added to support the implementation of the evolving curriculum which helps maintain relevancy of academic programs in a changing global environment. A speech pathologist was added to enable the district to provide comprehensive required support in district. Finally, a shared elementary school guidance counselor was added to support the social-emotional needs of our youngest learners, helping to maintain an appropriate learning environment for all students. These programmatic additions are all intended to facilitate the delivery of the educational program.
During the budget process, the Finance Committee of the Board questioned if additional savings were possible in certain areas with the caveat to "do no harm" to the general school program. Superintendent Tom Scarice and his colleagues identified areas of potential savings, including facilities, core allocations, casual student labor, technology and ECA (an arts enrichment program), totaling $190,000. Upon review, the Finance Committee decided against advancing the added cuts in student labor and ECA, and delivered a budget proposal that reduced outlays by $128,000, an additional -0.20% reduction. The majority of the full board voted against these cuts and approved the Administration’s original proposed budget with a -0.10% decrease. It should be noted that the Finance Committee did not request a reduction in the four additional staff positions mentioned above.
It is important that on May 14 all members of the Madison community vote in the town referendum on budget issues relating to our school program which, along with our beach facilities, is a critical element in attracting families to Madison, increasing the property value of all residents. Members of the Board of Education and the Tri-Board School Facilities Working Group have had the opportunity to hear from community members over the past months in several different settings, including meetings at the Senior Center, school facilities public forums, and realtor meetings. We have consistently heard about the desire for a successful school program provided in a secure environment without undue increased pressure on the tax rate. We have also heard from many stakeholders about the importance of small class sizes; while this budget includes administrative and other staff reductions, we are committed to maintaining our excellent student to teacher ratio.
To learn more about the entire budget process, please see our last newsletter. Please visit the Board of Education website for more information on the budget and these upcoming public meetings:
- February 5 and February 20, 2019: Approved BOE Budget goes to Boards of Selectmen and Finance
- March 6 and April 10, 2019: Final public budget hearings
- May 14, 2019: Town referendum