Hopkinton School Board pares back budget following concerns of affordability

  • Hopkinton High School is shown on April 21, 2016. Monitor file

Monitor staff
Published: 1/24/2023 3:09:35 PM
Modified: 1/24/2023 3:09:07 PM

The Hopkinton School District will propose a new, pared-back school budget to the town budget committee this week after receiving some feedback that their first proposed budget was too high for taxpayers.

The Hopkinton School Board had originally proposed a budget of $24.8 million, nearly an 8% increase over last year, which is expected to raise the tax rate by $1.83. They had also proposed adding $275,000 to the maintenance trust fund. The two proposals would cost about $872 more a year for a house worth $400,000.

After members of the Hopkinton Budget Committee members expressed concern that their proposed spending plan could be too much for taxpayers, school officials returned to the drawing board and reduced the operating budget by $177,633.

The new proposed operating budget is $24.7 million, a 7.1% increase over last year’s school budget of $23 million. It has an estimated local tax impact of $1.61. In addition, they’re proposing adding $200,000 to a trust fund for school building maintenance and repairs, which will have a local tax impact of $0.26. Combined, those two items would still increase taxes by about $750 a year for a $400,000 home.

“We were given feedback from our budget committee that they were looking for probably around a $250,000 reduction to decrease the tax impact below $2,” School Board Chair Andrea Folsom said Monday. “And so that's what we put forward.”

The district’s cost increases are mainly due to inflation and energy costs, as well as its negotiated teacher contract, according to Folsom. Increases to salaries and benefits comprise $1.4 million of the original proposed $1.8 million increase, according to budget documents.

The main categories the Hopkinton Budget Committee pointed to for reductions were personnel salaries and the maintenance trust fund. School Board member Norm Goupil will present the updated figures to the budget committee at their meeting Wednesday evening. 

The new, lower school budget includes eliminating a fourth-grade teacher position at Maple Street School and a reading interventionist position at Harold Martin School. Both positions were established in the past several years using federal COVID-19 relief ESSR funds. Those funds would then be re-allocated to cover a school psychology position currently in the budget. 

“These were positions that were in response to the COVID pandemic, and they were one-year contracts,” Folsom said. “So there would be an impact to students, but it’s the impact we felt would be the least negative impact on their education.”

Currently, Maple Street School has four fourth-grade classes of around 15 students each. Reducing a fourth-grade teaching position would mean combining them into three classes of around 20 students each.

“One of the most coveted things about being in Hopkinton is the stability, and I believe that reducing a classroom teacher will really inhibit that where it may impact our morale and culture and climate,” Maple Street School principal Caroline Sindoni told Board members at a meeting Jan 17.

The district is also proposing to cut the amount going to the maintenance trust fund, reducing it by $75,000. 

The Hopkinton School Board voted 4-1 to move forward with the lower budget, at the Jan. 17 meeting. Folsom, Goupil, Rob Nadeau and Jim O'Brien voted in favor of reducing the budget, while Dulcie Madden Lipoma voted against it.

“I think many families still are feeling the impact from the COVID pandemic and the alternative schooling kids we’re faced with, so it's difficult when there are changes,” Folsom said. “But we still feel that the kids will be okay and that our schools and district would be okay if this were to go through.”

Hopkinton’s Budget Committee will be holding a public hearing Feb. 8 where residents can share their opinions on the school budget in advance of the school district's annual meeting March 11.

Eileen O

Eileen O'Grady is a Report for America corps member covering education for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. O’Grady is the former managing editor of Scope magazine at Northeastern University in Boston, where she reported on social justice issues, community activism, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a native Vermonter and worked as a reporter covering local politics for the Shelburne News and the Citizen. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, The Bay State Banner, and VTDigger. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in politics and French from Mount Holyoke College, where she served as news editor for the Mount Holyoke News from 2017-2018.

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