PEPPERELL -- Officials from the Nashoba Valley Technical School District explained the district's proposed budget increases to the Finance Committee last Thursday night.

The district has presented a $12.4 million budget for fiscal 2015, a 5 percent increase from last year.

Pepperell's assessment has grown even more drastically than the budget as a whole, by about 22 percent, due primarily to increasing enrollment. Last year, the town's student enrollment jumped from 116 to 140.

"There has been a very steady growth of students from Pepperell. We're very proud of that," Superintendent Judith Klimkiewicz said.

The majority of the increase in Pepperell's assessment was a direct result of the student population rising, which led to an increased minimum contribution based on a state formula.

But although the increases are high, Klimkiewicz said the district's per-student cost is the lowest in the state for technical schools.

Klimkiewicz also reviewed the school's expansions over the past year, including a new sports complex, new dance and art center and upgrades to computer labs.

The computer upgrades, Klimkiewicz said, were necessary to meet the needs of students in the school's technical programs.

"We're a technical high school. There's nothing you can do anymore, including auto tech, without computers," she said.

The new sports complex was paid for by the town of Ayer's buy-in to the district, and did not cost anything to district taxpayers, Klimkiewicz said.

She said although there were increases in maintenance costs for fiscal 2015 due to the installation of the turf field, she expects costs to go down in the long-run.

"It's outwardly an expense to acquire the equipment, but in the long-term, it's easier to take care of," Klimkiewicz said.

Member John Ladik questioned some of the increases, including a 48 percent increase in the building-technology budget, which was largely made up of computer upgrades and increasing bandwidth.

Klimkiewicz said the computers needed to be upgraded from an outdated software system, and that staff computers hadn't been upgraded since 2009.

Finance Committee Chairman Melissa Tzanoudakis said the increases presented challenges for Pepperell, which is asking voters to support a $1 million override this year to bolster the town's operational budget.

"With sort of a perfect storm of events happening last year with the change in the formula for assessments, we got to a point where the combined school budgets, with even nominal increases, were taking more than our increases under Proposition 2 1/2, so the operational was starting at a negative," Tzanoudakis said.

Town departments will be forced to cut their budgets by about 5 percent for fiscal 2015 if the proposed override fails.

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