Expecting State Funding, School Department Revises its Proposed FY 2024 Budget, Restores Staff Positions
Westwood Public Schools Superintendent Emily Parks announced a revision to the School Department’s proposed FY 2024 budget, restoring staff positions that were previously proposed to be cut, in written remarks in a FY’24 Budget Executive Summary dated March 6, 2023 and posted on the Westwood Public Schools (WPS) website. The revised proposed budget includes a 5.8 percent increase over FY 2023, rather than the 4.5 percent increase previously proposed.
The budget revisions are enabled by an additional $641,508 in state aid. Governor Maura Healy and Lieutenant Governor Kimberley Driscoll’s announced their own proposed state budget for FY24 near the end of February.
“At that time, we learned that Westwood’s estimated allocation for FY’24 Chapter 70 funds (state aid to schools) is significantly higher than we anticipated," wrote Superintendent Parks. "With this unanticipated good news, we immediately met with the budget steering group to discuss how this unexpected increase in state aid could support our desire to both compensate our teachers and maintain high-quality services for students,” she explained.
The Healy-Driscoll administration seeks to provide investments locally, which would include “historic” supports to education. Among other things, the administration would provide relief for an unexpected 14 percent increase in out-of-district special education costs. These are the same costs which Superintendent Parks had pointed out as a main constraint in the proposed FY24 budget.
Increased costs from special education, heating, and inflation were explained as some of the constraints on a recent contract that Westwood's School Committee offered to Westwood Teachers Association (WTA). That contract included pay increases to staff, but reduced the number of current staff positions in order to fund the pay increases.
However, the prospect of more state funding has resulted in the School Department revising its proposed FY24 budget. The revised proposal adds back the staff positions that were expected to be cut.
WTA was scheduled take a vote on a new contract offer on Wednesday, March 8th, which Westwood Minute understands incorporates the effect of added state funding. Information regarding that vote was not available in time for publication of this article. However, a contract offer that includes pay increases without reduction of staff would seem to resolve a major obstacle in prior contract negotiations.
Residents wishing to comment on the School Department's revised proposed budget can do so at School Committee’s public hearing on Thursday, May 9, 2023, 7:00 p.m., at Westwood High School's Little Theater.
Additional school budget information can be found on the WPS website, listed under “School Committee” and “Budget.”