Citing the high cost of building new school space for growing student enrollment, Superintendent Patrick Murphy unveiled his budget for 2013 Thursday that calls for a one-student increase in maximum class sizes across grades.
The class size increase would save $4.3 million in staff and relocatable classroom costs that will be incurred by the expected 4 percent increase in student population, Murphy said. Without increasing class size, those costs would total $8.3 million, he said.
The proposed budget does not include construction costs to accommodate growing enrollment. New buildings will be funded with reserves, new bond issues and other sources.
Murphy and school board members are likely to hear protests from parents over the proposal over the coming weeks. Several parents spoke out against a possible increase at last week’s board meeting.
“We’ve really wrestled with this,” Murphy said at a budget briefing for reporters Thursday. “It’s a tough decision, and I know we’ve already begun to hear from parents and they’re expressing their concern about it.”
For classes that reach the maximum size, the superintendent said he would set aside a $1 million reserve for aides and assistants and other staff adjustments to ease the impact on students. He said he plans to explain his strategy in more detail at a public hearing on the budget March 8 and at a series of five budget work sessions.
The proposed $493.8 million budget represents an increase of $18.7 million from the 2012 budget, a hike of 3.9 percent. The proposal includes a 2 percent increase in teacher compensation, which combined with retirement and benefits raises the budget for staff by $16.3 million.
Other increases over the 2012 budget include $800,000 for science, economics and personal finance textbooks, new positions for teachers who can serve both special education and English as a second language, and $400,000 for a new science and technology focus program at Hoffman-Boston Elementary.
The school district receives most of its funds through an annual transfer from the county, which in the 2013 budget is $397 million, 4.8 percent higher than the 2012 transfer, due to a 6.6 percent increase in real estate value across the county.
However, the schools will not receive any of the money generated by a proposed 2-cent hike in county real estate tax rate, Murphy said.
An increase in class size will not necessarily add one student to every classroom. Class sizes vary depending on enrollment and demand for electives.