Sudbury Public Schools Committee Begins FY14 Discussions
SPS is in the early stages of discussing the next budget, while a number of important factors remain unsettled.
Members of the Sudbury Public School Committee opened their Wednesday night at Noyes Elementary School with the first public hearing regarding the budget for Fiscal Year 2014.
Committee Chair Richard Robison said one of the challenges to budget planning is that many factors remain unknown at this time.
“There has been quite a bit in the news in the last 24 hours regarding the state budget,” Robison said about a recent forecast that indicates that the Massachusetts legislature will face a 250 million dollar budget shortfall in just the first quarter of the new year. “And we don’t even have to talk about the federal government,” Robison said, regarding the ongoing dispute in Congress over the fiscal cliff of tax hikes and automatic spending cuts set to hit on Jan. 1 unless an agreement is hammered out before then.
He said local school committees have difficulty formulating their budgets without information from the state, while the state in turn has difficulty formulating its budget without information from the federal government.
“We are shooting in the dark at this point. But the miracle of it is that every year we get through it,” he said.
During the public comment period, Sudbury resident Jodi Sparks said budget considerations should focus on keeping class sizes manageable.
“I’m worried that the creeping up of class sizes will affect our children,” Sparks said, noting that a half-day kindergarten class at Haynes Elementary consists of 22 children, which she said poses a challenge for the teacher, who would like to be able to connect with each child on a deeper level than is possible given the current number of students.
Robison noted that enrollment is one of the important budget factors that can often be unpredictable. He said enrollment frequently increases on short notice as more families seek to move to Sudbury to take advantage of a school system that enjoys an increasingly positive reputation.
“Some of these empty houses are likely to be filled soon with young families with children who will be attending school," Robison said. "That is my hunch."