School Committee Budget Review Continues

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READING, MA — The School Committee hosted its second night of Fiscal Year 2025 budget review on Thursday evening, with Director of Finance and Operations Derek Pinto sharing the superintendent’s recommended budget for three cost centers: regular day, facilities, and district-wide programs.

The superintendent’s recommended budget for the regular day cost center is $33,077,097. This is a 3.5%  or $1,122,851 increase over FY 2024. Pinto reminded the committee that the regular day cost center represents expenditures for staff, materials, and curriculum for the majority of Reading students and represents 58% of the total budget. Pinto also pointed out that a primary driver for the increase in this cost center is secretary salaries. Other noteworthy increases include teacher longevity bonuses and the need for the additional Reading Memorial High School (RMHS) guidance counselors, paid for by ESSER grant funds up to the point, to be absorbed into this budget cost center.

The recommended budget for the facilities cost center is $1,696,953 or a 3.1% increase. This cost center covers regular maintenance such as cleaning supplies and janitorial services. Pinto noted that the salaries expense line item has decreased in this cost center as some of those expenses will now be funded through the revolving fund for facilities rental. He also noted that much of the increase in the budget is due to supply cost increases.

The district-wide cost center covers expenses such as athletics, extra-curricular activities, health services, and technology. The recommended FY 2025 budget for this cost center is $2,526,488, which is a 6.14% increase over FY 2024. The recommended budget for athletics has been increased by 9.51% due to the addition of assistant coaches for the boys swim team and for the girls track team. School Committee member Erin Gaffen shared that she hopes that the budget will, at some point, fund all the assistant coaches and not through parent fundraising, even suggesting that an increase in fees could be enacted to make the real costs for sports participation more transparent. 

While not disagreeing with Gaffen, School Committee member Chuck Robinson and Superintendent Thomas Milaschewski indicated this would be a much larger discussion.

Pinto also shared that the town is recommending a total of $201,000 for capital expenditures in FY 2025 for items such as new flooring and door and window replacements at several school buildings. Although it is likely to be an expense in the town budget, Milaschewski shared that the replacement of the field house floor is also in the capital plan for $200,000 for design in FY 2026 and $1.5 million for installation in FY 2027.

Prior to the budget discussion, the committee reviewed the proposed $1,450 tuition for full-day kindergarten for FY 2025. Milaschewski reported that this is a reduction from the $2,650 tuition in FY 2024. Gaffen questioned how this amount was determined, and School committee chair Thomas Wise reminded the committee that this “is a number that works with our budget and puts us on the path for universal full-day kindergarten in 2026,” as was agreed to three years prior.

School Committee members will submit questions to Pinto regarding the budget by Monday, with answers to be published online by next Thursday. The School Committee will host a public hearing on the FY 2025 budget on Thursday, January 18, at 7:00 pm in the RMHS library.

The committee voted 6-0 to approve two updates to the 2023-2024 school calendar. February 9 was a half-day for RMHS students, but now it will be a full day. February 2 and 16 will now be half-days. Milaschewski informed the committee that the reasons for the changes were to pilot ideas for a new schedule at the high school.

Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Sarah Hardy provided a quick update regarding the math pathways initiative. She reported that a pilot math lab will be located in the library, initiated at RMHS, during the second semester. She also shared progress towards a summer geometry program. Wise asked about several scenarios regarding the summer geometry program, including whether or not the program would be available for students who did not succeed in the regular offering during the school year. Hardy indicated that the team would investigate the issues raised by Wise.

The School Committee adjourned at 8:30 pm.

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