By Katina Caraganis

MediaNews

ASHBY -- A preliminary budget presented to the Board of Selectmen Wednesday night showed a decrease in the amount of the town's local contribution to the school district.

Superintendent of Schools Joan Landers and School Committee member Arnie Silva were on hand for Wednesday night's meeting, where they informed selectmen that based on preliminary numbers in the governor's budget, Ashby's contribution will go down just over $92,000.

Ashby's enrollment numbers in the district went up slightly as well, Landers said, but some of the cost savings they would see from the decreased local contribution will be eaten up because of an approximately $12,000 increase in regional transportation for the district.

"We're basing our budget numbers right now on the governor's proposed budget," Landers said. "We've run eight different budget scenarios this past week. I've been asked to look at two budget proposals ultimately, which will be presented at Monday night's school committee meeting."

One of the biggest problems moving forward, Landers said, is that the target share amount for the town of Pepperell as determined by a complex state formula, has increased drastically over the current school year.

It's too soon to tell whether the town of Pepperell can afford the increase.

"We're assessing the immediate needs in the district of keeping class sizes low while maintaining a focus on children," she said.

Silva said that while the full School Committee has not discussed any budget proposals, he said he would like to see a budget that does not require any overrides.

The district had to propose two overrides to fund the current school year's operating budget.

"We're going to be juggling a lot of things going forward. We're just going to keep our fingers crossed that we don't lose," Silva said. "Really in the end, it's the kids who lose."

Landers said she's hoping to have a direction for the budget at Monday night's meeting. If the operating budget for the school remains flat with no increases at all, Ashby's local contribution will only decrease about $30,000, which includes the increase to transportation.

Selectmen Chair Peter McMurray said he likes the idea of not having to propose an override to voters.

"I think it would be in the best interest of the town not to have an override if we don't have to," he said. "We have to continue to provide the best educational process necessary for these kids."

Follow Katina Caraganis on Twitter @kcaraganis.