PALMER — Ahead of the forthcoming Town Council budget hearing, the School Committee reviewed and finalized approval of an $18.2 million budget request from the town for fiscal year 2025. At a June 5 special meeting and budget hearing, the proposal, while representing a 3.46% increase from FY24, actually demonstrates an 0.02% reduction in the operating budget which includes the general fund, grant funds, Circuit Breaker — state special education reimbursement fund — and other revolving funding accounts, reaching $20.4 million in total.

Superintendent Matthew Francis contrasted figures from FY23 and FY24, showing a 2.2% rise in operating outlay and itemizing the FY25 proposed numbers.

For FY25, Francis outlined a $1.2 million commitment for investments including after-school and summer school enrichment, expansion of preschool, arts, world languages and athletics opportunities as well as technology. Funds will also be dedicated for the expansion of collaborative teaching models for Special education and English Learners.

Also acknowledging the forthcoming end to the $802,000 Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief III funding, Francis said the budget allows for the loss of that allotment in September while still showing the decrease in the overall operating budget.

Preschool classes with a focus on 4-year-olds, will increase to two full day classrooms with a student cap of 15 students and an additional full day class with a maximum of 20 students. A half day class for the morning and afternoon sessions will operate with 15 students each and will be offered at no cost to families.

Francis also identified other priorities including an expanded partnership with town departments, such as responsibility for town payroll functions for which the town pays one-third of the district employee’s salary for that job designation. A continued alliance with Ware Public Schools and Holyoke Community College as part of an expansion of the Pathways program.

Budget costs for new hires were left in the original budget request but Francis said they will not being moving forward with taking on a new human resources position or an additional technology role as previously planned.

“Going through this entire process, it was important for us to still maintain a high level of services for all our students,” Francis said. “And I think we’ve done that in our FY25 budget.”

The budget request to be presented to the town was approved by the committee in the special meeting that immediately followed the budget hearing. The budget went before the Town Council on June 10, after Reminder Publishing’s deadline.