HARVARD -- As Harvard Public Schools interim Superintendent Joseph Connelly laid out the framework of the fiscal 2014 budget to the School Committee, he noted that some early observations indicate several nonsalary budget issues that were not present the previous year.
"Last year we had the good fortune to get additional circuit breaker money," he said. "We were reimbursed for the prior year's costs that exceeded a certain threshold, so last year we were reimbursed for the fiscal 2011 special-education costs.
In fiscal 2012, special-education costs decreased, but the reimbursement for those costs also decreased, so we are projecting that our reimbursement for a circuit breaker is going to be about $120,000 less in fiscal 2014 than this year."
In addition, school bus transportation costs have increased by over $10,000 due to lower ridership, and it is those ridership fees that help offset the cost of transportation. Therefore, the district is proposing reducing the offset of $65,000 in rider fees to $55,000, increasing the budget by another $10,000.
Connelly added that special-education transportation has increased by about $32,000, and special-education tuitions have increased by about $70,000.
Also in fiscal 2014, due to reduced enrollment, the preschool tuition offset will be reduced by about $10,000, and technology replacement costs will increase by about $60,000.
While some other subsidies have increased, some nonsalary line items have decreased, and some personnel changes will also help reduce the line item increases for next year, overall, the fiscal 2014 budget "will be very challenging," Connelly said.
This is due to a reduction in some of our subsidies, so I am trying to come up with alternate subsidies so the impact will not be as great on the fiscal 2014 budget," he concluded.
Connelly will present the fiscal 2014 draft 1 budget at the Monday, Nov. 26, School Committee meeting.
Interim special education director search
Connelly said the school district has been looking for an interim special education director to replace Pam DeGregorio, who will be retiring in December. The interim director would serve from January through June, after which time a permanent replacement would begin serving on July 1, 2013.
Connelly said the search committee had interviewed four of 12 candidates, and "I am pleased to tell you that we have found Dr. Michael Dubrule, who has been with Berlin-Boylston for five years, most recently as its interim superintendent."
Dubrule, who lives in Boylston, is former superintendent of the Leicester public schools and a former director of pupil services for the Berlin-Boylston public schools. He was with Leicester for 13 years, and retired in 2008, said Connelly. Since then, he has held various interim special education positions. He is a professor of psychology at Worcester State University.
I would ask your support to invite him to our next meeting so you will know who you will take action on," Connelly told the committee. He added that Dubrule would be available to work full time.
The superintendent search committee has developed 15 interview questions and planned to meet on Nov. 14 to finalize the interview process and confirm interview times, said School Committee Chairwoman Mary Susan Redinger.
A week ago, she said, there were 12 completed applications and 14 requests for information, and five more current superintendents were expected to apply. She said there may be as many as 40 applications by the Nov. 16 deadline, and that the committee would begin reviewing the application packets on Nov. 19.
Foreign-exchange student admission policy approved
The committee unanimously voted to accept the latest version of the admission policy for foreign-exchange students.
The policy includes the statement, "Participating host families must reside in Harvard or have school-aged children attending Harvard Public Schools as residents of Devens."
This allows Devens families with students enrolled in Harvard schools to serve as a host family for a foreign-exchange student with no tuition charged back to MassDevelopment. The rationale, said Connelly, is that MassDevelopment is already paying a tuition charge for that family, and therefore would not be charged more for hosting a foreign-exchange student, as is the case with Harvard families.
Connelly said George Ramirez, MassDevelopment executive vice president of Devens operations, might still have an issue with the policy and prefer it to be on a case-by-case basis, but that he had not yet heard back from him.
Capital planning and investment committee report
Committee member Keith Cheveralls reported that the Capital Planning and Investment committee held its third meeting on Nov. 1. He said Harvard Finance Director Lorraine Leonard had compiled a worksheet and that preliminary work was in progress.
The committee continues to meet with various departments, which are defending their capital plans, he said. Prior to its Dec. 13 meeting with the Energy Advisory Committee, the committee will be meeting with the various cost center managers, which include technology, Hildreth Elementary School, the Bromfield School, school facilities, special education, and the central office.
We are pre-submitting questions to the department heads this year," said Cheveralls, requesting that School Committee members submit their questions by Dec. 5.
He added that small capital items may need to wait until January, after the School Committee assesses the relative merit of each department's presentation.