School Committee Reviews Budgets for Two Cost Centers

READING, MA – On Thursday, the School Committee began a deeper look into the Superintendent’s Recommended Fiscal Year 2025 budget by reviewing two cost centers, the administrative cost center and the special education cost center.

Superintendent of Schools Thomas Milaschewski began the review by reporting on the number of positions that have been added to the district over the past two years. He stated that the plan for the FY 2025 budget has only a few new positions in comparison to the past two years, as it is more of a “level-funded budget.” Milaschewski highlighted the eleven school counselors and the five assistant principals recently added at the elementary level.

 “Overall, we feel encouraged by the investments we have made over the past couple of years,” Milaschewski reported.

The proposed school department budget in FY 2025 is $50,125,483, which is an additional $2,072,060 over FY 2024. This added to the special education accommodated costs of $6,085,320 for FY 2025, and the $150,000 of community priority funding for full-day kindergarten brings the total budget recommendation to $56,310,811. Included in this is the addition of a .6 full-time equivalent (FTE) for a speech and language pathologist at the elementary level and a .5 FTE Special education teacher at Joshua Eaton Elementary School. Full-day kindergarten tuition will drop from $2,650 in FY 2024 to $1,450 in FY 2025.

Milaschewski also noted that there is an added 1.0 FTE for special education at Coolidge Middle School and that the proposed budget includes absorbing the 2.0 FTE high school guidance counselors previously funded by an ESSER grant into the school department budget.

Director of Finance and Operations Derek Pinto provided the proposed budget for the Administrative cost center. This cost center includes central office staff and other administrative costs. The total proposed budget for Administration in FY 2025 is $1,374,689, or a 4.85% increase over FY 2024. The primary driver for the added $63 532 is in personnel costs. Pinto also noted that offset funds from the state for school choice had been removed from this cost center and added to the Regular Day cost center.

The proposed budget for the Special Education cost center is $17,635,574 for FY 2025. This represents 31.32% of the total budget for the district and is an increase of $919,408 or a 5.5% increase over FY 2024. Pinto attributed the increased costs to salaries, transportation, and out-of-district placements.

The School Committee will review the final three cost centers, Regular Day, District-wide, and Facilities at its January 11 meeting.

The School Committee also reviewed and approved, by a vote of 5-0, tuition increases at the RISE preschool. Tuitions for both of the five-day programs will be increased for the upcoming school year. The full-day, five-day-a-week program will have an increase from $7,900 a year to $8,120 a year, and the transitional half-day five-day program will have an increase from $3,950 to $5,655. Milaschewski noted that the transitional program will also be increased by two hours a week. Milaschewski continued, sharing that the reason for the increases are to “level set within our programs.” Each of the five different programs will now cost between $290 and $300 a unit.

The School Committee adjourned at 8:10 pm to executive session to discuss contract negotiation strategy.

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