EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 20, 2013

Windham School Budget proposal up 2.6 percent

By John Toole
jtoole@eagletribune.com

---- — WINDHAM — School administrators are proposing a 2.6 percent increase in spending.

The School Board received the $46.3 million budget proposal during a meeting Tuesday night.

It would increase spending $1.2 million from the 2014 fiscal year budget. The tax impact is projected at 64 cents per $1,000 of property valuation. Officials said that would add about $224 to the tax bill for the owner of a $350,000 home in Windham.

Business administrator Adam Steel told the School Board the budget would add 14 new positions, restructure curriculum administration, fund two new school buses, upgrade technology, and let the school district manage its own landscaping and grounds, rather than using contractors.

The restructuring of curriculum administrators would move positions out of the union and into management, a change Superintendent Winfried Feneberg described as “very significant.”

Applicants could come from within the district or from outside, he said.

Administrators are hoping the restructuring could yield benefits in the classroom.

“It’s a small but important step in the right direction,” Feneberg told the board.

School Board member Michelle Farrell welcomed the proposal.

“I like this idea,” she said. “It is something we’ve talked about in the past.”

The number of new positions, which include both full- and part-time jobs, will get close scrutiny during the board’s upcoming budget deliberations.

“I don’t think we need 14 new positions,” School Board member Dennis Senibaldi said. “It’s way over the top.”

He warned that kind of staff growth would have repercussions at the ballot box.

“Nothing will pass,” Senibaldi said.

School Board member Stephanie Wimmer described the proposed budget increase as extremely modest, but said officials will still want to sharpen their pencils.

“What are the priorities?” Wimmer asked.

In-house management of landscaping and grounds maintenance is projected to save the district $43,000 annually.

Steel highlighted some good news, too.

He said no increase is expected in health insurance and costs could actually decline.

Steel told officials the entire budget, 619 pages, is posted on the school district’s website.

The budget is now in the board’s hands.

A public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 17 at Windham High.

The deliberative session will be Feb. 7, also at 7 p.m., at the high school.

Voters will get their say on the budget at Town Meeting on March 11.