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$37.6M School Budget Now In Town Meeting Hands

The School Committee formally voted to send its fiscal year 2012 budget to town meeting, but not before concerns were aired about the town's ability to balance future budgets.

The School Committee held its annual budget hearing Thursday night, approving the $37.6 million spending plan after hearing concerns raised about whether tougher decisions will be faced in the future.

The budget, which represents an approximately $1 million increase over last year's levels, will go before Annual Town Meeting voters on Monday. Before the School Committee gave the document its final blessing, some members echoed concerns raised during a review of the budget by the . 

Patrick J. Kennelly said he worried that positions being added this year would only have to be cut next year, and that extra programs being added would hamper the district's ability to keep classroom teachers in place in future years. This year's budget is being balanced in part with federal stimulus funds that are slated to run out at the end of the 2011-12 school year. 

"I don't want us to be in the position of hiring just to have to fire people the following year," he said.  Likewise, he said, a plan to devote more resources to alternative education programs at the high school, might need more time to have the details fleshed out before being moved forward for the same reasons. 

Member Paul Mazzuchelli said the committee recognizes that there are limits to how much the district can ask the town's taxpayers to pay. "There is only so much we can ask for and as a committee, we recognize that and always have," he said. 

Chairman Loriann Baranauskas said while non-core programs are important, the district would always seek to protect classroom teachers and to keep student-to-teacher ratios as low as  possible. "Classroom teachers will always be our top budget priority," she said.

Also Thursday night, the committee: 

- Announced the district had offered the position of Director of Special Education to Meg Belsito, currently a special education team leader at the . That position was created as part of a reorganization that came about after Assistant Superintendent for Pupil Personnel Services Barbara J. Cataldo announced her departure from the district. 

- Recognized 41 seventh- and eighth-grade students who had been chosen to participate in the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth program, which offers students with high test scores the opportunity to take part in summer coursework. 

- Approved student handbooks and school improvement programs for , Woodland Elementary and the . 

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