SOUTHBOROUGH, Mass. — Spending on Southborough's kindergarten through fifth grade schools could increase by almost $700,000 in fiscal year 2014, according to Superintendent Charles Gobron.
Gobron told the K-8 School Committee on Wednesday that the $17,690,872 preliminary budget marks a 4.06 percent increase over the $16,999,992 approved for FY13, or a difference of $690,880.
The majority of this increase is the result of mandatory increases in special education spending, Gobron said. Tuition for students placing out of the district will rise by $371,373, while special education transportation costs will see a $92,779 increase.
"Most districts in the state are experiencing increases in mandated special education costs," Gobron said. He called these numbers "fluid," adding that students are always moving in and out of the district.
Another major increase is the result of contractual increases for employees, which will total about $410,000. In addition, the budget includes $31,128 for technology telecommunications, maintenance and a district network manager.
According to Technology Director Jean Tower, this manager will monitor networks, assist with troubleshooting and installation so the district won't have to pay outside companies for the service. Currently, she added, "we have one person in Southborough who provides all the technical support for all four schools."
School Committee member Jerry Capra asked whether the district has the money to build a network infrastructure that could support an Internet-connected device for every student. So far, Southborough schools do not have that capability.
"There's a sea change in technology today," Capra said. "I don't think we have to be on the cutting edge of it, but we cannot afford to fall behind."
Tower said that the funds are still not available, though progress is being made to increase bandwidth incrementally.
"The budget as it exists allows us to make progress, but not to the extent that we hoped when we made our plan," Tower said.
Certain items were not included in the budget to help offset sharp increases in other areas, as well as the loss of grant funding from the previous year, Gobron said. For instance, the district will not hire a K-5 math specialist, which it had planned for. It will also postpone adding non-instructional support at Trottier Middle School for another year.
Still, Gobron said, "we will be able to maintain quality education in fiscally difficult times." He estimated that the district will save about $200,000 in staffing reductions and another $98,895 in anticipated retirements, though these numbers could change as the year continues.