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SCHOOLS: Seeking $500,000 for Technology Improvements

While the School Committee has not taken any official position on their proposed fiscal 2014 operating budget, a majority of committee members seemed satisfied with the revised budget which scaled back a proposed two percent increase in the total school budget to less than one percent. The revised budget also reduced by half the assessments to the towns of Groton and Dunstable. The operating assessment to Groton was revised downward from a 4.35 percent increase to a 2.67 percent increase. For Dunstable, the operating assessment was cut in half from a five percent increase to 2.68 percent. The School Committee is expected to certify the proposed budget this Friday, March 8.

The School Committee heard from Director of Finance and Business Jerry Martin at their meeting on Feb. 27. He was instructed by the Committee to review the budget again with the aim of reducing the assessment increase to Dunstable. Those reducations also translated to a lower assessment to Groton. Martin told the Committee he reduced the total budget by $342,000 which brought the proposed overall budget from $35.5 million to $35.2 million. At $35.2 million, the proposed fiscal 2014 total budget will increase $308,000 or .883 percent - continuing a four-year trend of relatively flat budgets for the school district.

With a total budget proposed at $35.2 million, Groton's assessment to the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District will increase nearly $394,000 or a 2.67 percent increase. This increase is in line with the town budget proposed by Groton's Town Manager. Under the revised budget, Groton's assessment will total $15,119,512 which is nearly $250,000 less than was originally proposed.

For Dunstable, the increase in the operating assessment was cut in half from $204,000 (a five percent increase) to $109,000 (a 2.68 percent increase). This downward revision was in line with what Dunstable officials had planned for school expenditures.

The revised operating budget still provides for funding a full- time Technology Director for the School District. Items reduced in the budget include $78,000 for middle school wireless access; $105,000 in paraprofessional staffing, $50,000 from a contingency fund, $35,000 from teacher retirement fund,$28,000 from health insurance, $31,000 for a maintenance truck and $15,000 from athletics.. The total of these reductions are $342,000.

School Committee members were also in agreement to move forward with a proposal to seek the expenditure of $500,000 to fund improvements and upgrades to technology in the District. The School Committee had initially considered a warrant article to seek the expenditure of $700,000 but revised that figure downward after some committee members expressed concern about moving ahead without a plan in addressing technology shortcomings in the district. School Committee member Jim Frey said that the wrrant article will ask the towns to help the school district to "Get on track" in technology. School Committee Chair Alison Manugian said, "The warrant article will move us to the starting line." Committee member Jon Sjoberg had questions about integrating technology into the classroom. Frey responded to questions about using technology in the classroom, "It is a journey that's not taken in one step..We're working backwards." Frey noted that the warrant article will just provide a basic level of technology for the District.

School Committee members are expected to continue discussion of the budget and warrant article in workshop type meetings. The Committee must certify its fiscal 2014 budget by March 8.

Groton Herald

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