Mahar School Committee to hold public hearing on proposed FY23 budget, with 4.1% increase

  • Students leave Ralph C. Mahar Regional School in Orange. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 3/8/2022 3:26:57 PM
Modified: 3/8/2022 3:26:24 PM

ORANGE — Ralph C. Mahar Regional School’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2023 is 4.1% higher than the current year’s expenditures.

If the figures remain unchanged, residents will be asked at Annual Town Meeting in June to adopt a $14.8 million budget, up from about $14.2 million this year.

Michele Tontodonato, director of finance and operations, said most of the hike can be attributed to contract and agreement increases as well as to instructional technology getting worked back into the budget, as opposed to being funded by the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund.

“We think it’s a reasonable and responsible budget,” Tontodonato said.

There will be contractually-obligated increases pertaining to the school district’s bus contractor, Swift River Bus Co., and to school staff. Tontodonato explained that, between the contract increase and a second morning bus that will be required to transport students to school for MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) testing for seven to eight days during the academic year, this translates to a proposed $119,080 difference.

There is a proposed $84,486 increase for the Mahar athletics department. This is reflected mostly in $21,543 in contract increases for coaches, a $25,638 bus contract increase and a $14,573 jump for supplies.

Tontodonato noted a more than 50% increase (from $15,518 to $32,900) for business office software agreements is reflective of the fact that the school might add to its educational software arsenal.

“We review all the software agreements we have each year,” she said.

The money spent on paraprofessionals’ salaries would increase in the proposed budget from $287,551 to $348,221, which Tontodonato said is because the district has to hire two new paraprofessionals to accommodate two incoming students in need of this support. Also, the paraprofessionals already employed are entitled to pay increases.

A portion of the proposed $142,881 increase under the facilities and maintenance category reflects the proposal for Mahar to hire a new maintenance worker and share its director of facilities with Orange’s elementary schools.

“We look for cost-savings wherever we can,” Tontodonato said.

She also said the rate agreement with the company Mahar uses for heating oil consists of an increase from $126,250 to $146,250.

While ESSER funds paid for instructional technology in fiscal year 2020 and contributed $31,000 toward it the following fiscal year, Tontodonato said the money has run out and the whole line item for instructional technology is being worked back into the budget.

The Mahar School Committee plans to hold a public hearing on the proposed budget at 6 p.m. on Thursday. Members are expected to vote on the proposed budget at their April 14 meeting.

Tontodonato noted that, under the current district agreement, at least three of the district’s four member towns — Orange, New Salem, Wendell and Petersham — must individually pass the budget for it to be adopted.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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