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SAU 84 board tries new approach to budget

September 02, 2009
LITTLETON—The Littleton School Board (School Administrative Unit 84) was in agreement at Monday's meeting to try a new approach to creating the 2011/2012 budget for the district.

The Board will be undertaking a line item review of all five of the district's programs—Lakeway Elementary, Daisy Bronson Middle School, Littleton High School, the Vocational Program and the North County Charter Academy—to create a budget from ground zero in hopes of more accurately reflecting the cost of 180 days of education.

Art Tighe, vice chairman of the Board, who proposed the plan, stated "we're asking the taxpayers for $15 million, I want them to be told why they're getting it, what it goes to, and how it meets core education. It's our obligation."

This strategy differs from previous years where budgets were based on percentages up or down from the following year or the flat line item budget proposed by the Budget Committee. The Board will be soliciting input from teachers, administration and the Budget Committee in the development process and will devote time to alternative regularly scheduled meetings in addition to special Saturday sessions (to be announced) to this review. Excluded from this review will be the existing contractual agreements that comprised nearly 70 percent of the budget. The Board also called for clearer accounting and monitoring of grants awarded and how this funding is distributed.

Priority issues in this review include adequate budgeting for building maintenance, utilization of staff with particular attention to areas of social service, and meeting the federal criteria for the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) tests, an accountability provision of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Currently the Littleton School District employs 187 individuals that includes a core base of 63 teachers in addition to 26 special education staff. Questions by the Board were raised if people and positions could be made to work more efficiently and about possible staffing overlaps. Board member Diane Cummings commented that although there has been an increase in personnel, that only Daisy Bronson Middle School received passing marks on the AYP tests, an annual problem for the district.

Other issues addressed were the resources needed to prepare for resubmission of a warrant article for the development of the Hugh Gallen Career and Technical Center, which was voted down earlier this year at Town Meeting. Concerns raised from the few attendees at the meeting focused on not making hasty cuts to vital programs such as art and music in favor of trying to improve AYP exams.

Closing the meeting was a discussion on how the Littleton School Distinct will possibly partner with the Boys & Girls Club of America to offer after school programs in math and language to area students. The goal of the partnership is to increase interest in these areas among local students. Further details about this partnership and dates for budget development sessions will be discussed at the next meeting set for Sept. 14th at 4:30 p.m. at Littleton High School.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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