AYER -- With high school construction on schedule, Ayer Shirley Regional School Committee is preparing for the new school year with 25 new employees and a comfortable budget.
With the start of school just days away, and fiscal 2013 coming to a close, the committee expressed satisfaction with the budget for the new fiscal year.
"We're in better shape than we thought we would be, and it does not appear that we will need any other transfers at this time in order to close out the fiscal '13 budget. We talked pretty consistently about going further into reserves, but it appears that we will not have to do that," Superintendent Carl Mock said.
Mock said some of the savings came from freezing the school budget a couple of months ago, which provided some cushion for the year ahead.
"In terms of total revenues, we are within $300 of our estimates ... and our expenditures budget should close out at $84,000," Mock said.
Reserves came in at approximately $450,000 to close out the year, with no additional reserve transfers at this time.
Fiscal 2014 estimates "look good" going into this school year with revenues up a little bit from last year.
"I think we are already more comfortable with the fiscal '14 budget than we were with the fiscal '13 budget this time last year," Mock said.
Construction at the new high school continues with crews laying foundation for the academic wing, to be followed by construction of the music and band room addition.
The committee discussed the timely work being done on the high school, calling it "ahead of schedule in some aspects." Among them is the auditorium that will be open by the first day of school.
A groundbreaking ceremony at ASRHS is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 18, while work will continue for the duration of the school year.
As the construction project remains within budget, there were several cost-cutting points the school building committee tentatively decided to eliminate for the time being.
"We were very careful to make sure whatever was chosen would not impact the (curriculum). We talked about using different types of materials for some things and spoke a lot about HVAC systems throughout the school as well," member Pat Kelly said.
The committee chose to change porcelain floors to epoxy resin, use seed instead of sod, and to rebuild the tennis court. As the building continues, some of the items on the list for potential changes may be added back to the building plans. "Our expectation is to have all of these items, if we stay (on track)," Kelly said.
Aside from building construction and fiscal-year budgets, the committee mentioned 25 new employees to the school district, and additional coaching staff.
"I've said this to a few people now, but I can't remember the last time I was quite as excited for a new crop of teachers. This may be the best crop of staff that I've seen in a long, long time," Mock said.
"I think the one commonality that I am most excited about is the mindset that I see coming in -- very positive, out-of-the-box thinkers with some unusual experiences that they are thinking hard to translate into the classrooms for our kids," said Assistant Superintendent Mary Beth Hamel. "So we are very excited for the opportunities that this particular group brings with them."