LUDLOW — During the Jan. 9 School Committee meeting, Superintendent Frank Tiano gave an updated report on the fiscal year 2025 budget that included the revelation that the district would require less money than anticipated to maintain level services, but still more than it anticipates receiving.

In October, Tiano said he initially thought that a 7% increase or approximately $2.5 million was needed to reach level service.

“We shot high on some of the salary pieces in terms of out of district tuition. We actually had some move outs,” Tiano added.

After going through each budget line again, the current increase needed to reach level service is 4.8% or $1.7 million.

The estimated increase from the town is 3% or approximately $1 million.

With that estimated increase, the school budget would face a $646,295 shortfall or 1.8% below level service.

“Although this would be a reduction, it’s a lot less than what I thought it would be. We went through every line item. It’s not great but it’s better,” Tiano said.

School Committee member Jeffrey Stratton said these estimated reductions would mark the fifth year of the budget being below level service.

In FY21 the budget was $286,000 under level service, in FY22 it was $1.1. million below, in FY23 it was $1.8 million below and FY24 was $1.5 million below level service.

In FY24, the loss in funding forced the district to eliminate the positions for 22 full-time employees.

The year before, the schools had to reduce 14 full-time employees but used one-time Elementary and Secondary School Education Relief funds to add nine positions to meet English language learning and special education requirements.

“That a chronic issue. That’s a lot of cutting year after year after year. I know it’s a challenge. I don’t envy the town’s position, there is a lot of things we need but this is starting to look pretty chronic,” Stratton added.

Most of the increases in the budget include contractual obligations like salary increases, out of district tuitions and transportation.

“Seventy-five percent of the budget is taken up by salary, 10% is from out of district tuition and 6% is for transportation. That is 90% of the budget right there so in terms of cutting, there’s not a lot to cut,” Stratton said.

Tiano added that the loss of ESSER funds takes $400,000 out of the budget while other contractual obligations are also set to increase in FY25.

Salaries are expected to increase by $1.7 million, transportation by $224,000 and out-of-district tuition by $192,000.

Tiano said that the next steps in the budget process include continuing to meet with and inform the School Committee and town officials about the budget, work on potential reductions in the operating budget and continue to inform the public of the process.

The current budget presentation and updates can be viewed at tinyurl.com/mvmh9hfr.

Based on Tiano’s budget timeline, he said he would like to host another budget presentation on Jan. 23 and have a public hearing on Feb. 13.

Tiano added, “I shared this number with the administration and it’s still going through some exercises. I asked our principals to look at class size not as a recommendation but as a dollar figure. We asked our departments to look at that as well, not only for teachers but administration as well and see where we can possibly make some reductions. In two weeks from tonight I would like to come back with some ideas that we have and share those.”

tgarnet@thereminder.com | + posts