WILMINGTON, MA — At last month’s Wilmington School Committee meeting, Superintendent Dr. Glenn Brand presented his Fiscal Year 2023 preliminary budget.
Brand is calling for an overall increase of 3.09% ($1.38 million), from $44.81 million to $46.19 million. The majority of that increase — $1.2 million — is due to a 3.43% increase in salary expenses, including $599,189 in new positions, $485,306 in step & lane changes, $95,280 in salary increases, and $16,850 in longevity bonuses. Non-salary expenses will increase by 1.8% ($169,278), mainly driven by increases in curriculum supplies ($44,875), maintenance/repairs ($39,975), technology ($31,461), and transportation ($28,800).
Brand is also asking for $446,000 in capital budget requests, including $125,000 for projectors at the high school; $117,000 for a switch replacement at an elementary school; $80,000 for projectors at one or more elementary schools; $70,000 for a PA upgrade; and $54,000 for a wifi replacement at one or more elementary schools.
“There are a wide number of resource needs that have been recommended by members for our leadership team but which I am not recommending at this time,” said Brand. “An absence of advancing these requests does not minimize the value of the recommendations, but rather reflects the difficult task that I and my team hold in presenting a budget that is reasonable for the citizens at this time.”
Brand classified the budget proposal as “status quo level services.” He noted that planning and budgeting is “challenging” due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its ramifications. The district is predicting a student enrollment of 2,757 for next school year, a decline of nearly 100 from the current enrollment of 2,854.
School Committee Vice Chair David Rasgdale noted that the Committee may want to consider taking part in the state’s School Choice program since it has sufficient space due to declining enrollment. School Committee Secretary MJ Byrnes stated she’d be willing to consider allowing staff members’ children to attend Wilmington schools.
School Committee members had questions around enrollment projections, busing, fees for co-op sports teams, how the budget supports the strategic plan, and providing additional staffing for the performing arts department. Brand encouraged members to reach out with additional questions and requests for information prior to the next meeting.
School Committee member Jay Samaha suggested that the Committee hold a public discussion to inform Brand of their budget priorities every fall, rather than wait until the budget is already formulated and drafted in the winter. Many of his colleagues agreed.
Brand, after meeting with Town Manager Jeff Hull, will present his final recommended budget to the School Committee at its meeting on Wednesday, January 19, 2022. The School Committee will hold a public hearing on the budget at its meeting on Wednesday, February 16, 2022.
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