GROTON -- Groton-Dunstable Regional School District administrators continue to scale back their plans to increase spending in fiscal 2014, this time by cutting an increase in its operating budget for next year by more than half.

The news comes in the wake of a similar reduction in a proposed warrant article that would have sought $700,955 to pay for more technology in the district. Administrators on Wednesday cut back to $562,055.

News of the reduction came at a joint meeting Thursday between the School Committee and officials from Groton and Dunstable to discuss the district's fiscal 2014 budget and technology article.

Before the reduction was announced, the bottom line for fiscal 2014 came to $35,541,942 as compared to this year's budget of $34,891,906.

The new figures cut the proposed increase from 1.8 percent to 0.8 percent, or from $650,036 in new spending to $308,094, with savings coming from a reduction in part-time para-professionals and their related health costs, one retirement, and by putting off the purchase of a maintenance truck.

The new total now comes to $35,200,000.

"We're trying to reflect the reduction in (student) enrollment," said interim Superintendent of Schools Anthony Bent by way of explaining the cut in new spending.

"From our perspective, I think we've closed it up," he said.

Most of the meeting was spent explaining to town officials why there was a need for the technology appropriation, which administrators and School Committee members said was needed to bring the district up to standard.


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Accountability Director Kerry Clery said all it would do was to take a situation where the district was drowning and bring its head above water.

"It's no secret that the technology in this district is outdated," Clery said. "We're so far behind now, we need a jump start."

Clery said if there were an MCAS test for technology, the district would rank one of the lowest in the state.

According to Clery, the technology is haphazard in terms of equipment as well as in its application, with no infrastructure to support it. If the funds requested in the article were to be approved, a start could be made to change that.

With $562,055, the district would purchase a laundry list of basic items, including carts that would enable transportation of 30 laptop computers to different classrooms, projectors and cameras enabling students to see their work on a screen instead of in a book, individual laptop computers for teachers, installation of wireless Internet access in all school buildings, and air conditioning units to keep equipment lockers cool.

Advantages of having an extensive computer-based "learning environment" were demonstrated by the district's Instructional Technology Specialist Audra Kaplan, who talked about how she is helping teachers learn about how to use technology in the classroom.

Although generally supportive of the initiative, local officials, which included selectmen and Finance Committee members from Groton and Dunstable as well as Groton Town Manager Mark Haddad, had a number of concerns. Concerns included whether there would be enough bandwidth to support so many new computers, what the cost would be of installing wireless Internet in all buildings, what would be the reoccurring technology costs in the operating budget as years went on, the need for a "big-picture" plan on technology spending and needs, and whether it would be feasible to allow students to bring their own devices to school.

Also of concern was how the argument for the extra spending would be put to residents at Town Meeting.