Villar projects $3.15M deficit for FY19

SOUTHBRIDGE — Dozens of teachers and school personnel are expected to lose their jobs due to budgetary constraints, according to district leadership.

A Tuesday morning email from Southbridge Public Schools Receiver Jeffrey A. Villar to districtwide staff indicates that overages in the current budget, along with no anticipated increase in funding, will result in the elimination of anywhere from 30-45 full-time positions from next year’s budget. Mr. Villar has forecast a projected deficit of approximately $3.15 million for fiscal year 2019, which begins July 1. He will announce the planned cuts at this evening’s School Committee meeting.

“Working with Administration, I have identified approximately $2,500,000 in reductions, but still need to identify $650,000 in additional reductions or additional revenue to balance the budget,” Mr. Villar wrote. “These are large numbers which require significant action.”

Those actions include cutting positions.

“During the school committee meeting tonight, I will share that district is likely to reduce approximately 30 full-time positions in response to the budget concerns. This number may grow to 45 if we do not develop a plan to close the remaining $650,000 gap,” Mr. Villar informed staff. “I know this discussion causes a great deal of anxiety for employees. Unfortunately, it is a part of the public process for creating a budget. I will refrain from discussing specific positions until we have finalized a plan to balance the budget and have had an opportunity to speak with the impacted employees.”

Large cuts to the school district’s staff are expected to be yet another obstacle to overcome as it works its way out of underperforming status and State control.

“These reductions do not come at a good time for the district,” Mr. Villar wrote. “We need all of the resources possible to do the complex work that we are engaged in.”

The financial shortfall is the result of “several significant challenges which will impact the entire system,” Mr. Villar explained.

He reported that the spending in fiscal year 2018 is out of balance due to greater than anticipated costs for out-of-district tuition and transportation upward of $759,000. Those costs “will require significant increases in these line items for the 2019 budget.”

Mr. Villar also noted the district anticipates “flat or declining revenue” from grants and officials are planning for a zero percent increase in funding from the town. Additionally, contractual raises negotiated by the Southbridge Education Association (SEA) are factored into the budget preparation.

Mr. Villar said the developing budget is further constrained by “other accounts that have historically been underfunded such as substitutes, facilities cost, and benefits which will need to be increased for next year,” as well as a “pressing need for new initiatives to help the district make the necessary improvements and will have to make these investments.”

As part of the anticipated budget cuts, the district will delay the implementation of a plan to extend the workday for elementary and middle school teachers by 30 minutes in the upcoming school year. “The delay means that we will keep the workday at the same length as it is this year,” Mr. Villar explained. “It also means that the additional salary increase that was directly linked to the extended workday will also be delayed until the plan is implemented.” He noted delaying the implementation of a longer school day will save the district approximately $235,000.

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