HANOVER — The South Shore Regional Vocational-Technical School District is seeking a 3.73-percent increase in its fiscal 2018 budget proposal.
The $12.9 million proposed budget, rolled out at the Wednesday, Dec. 21 SSVT School Committee meeting, incudes an increase of about $464,860. That increase reflects a half-dozen capital projects totaling about $367,000 — including $80,000 for equipment needed for a new horticulture program, $96,239 for three new staff members, guidance outreach hours and a one-time expense to cover a transitional hire to over a retirement in the payroll office; and covers an 11-percent increase in health insurance costs for active employees.
Enrollment among all eight towns is relatively stable. Hanson’s, for example is unchanged as of Oct. 1, while Whitman is up by one student.
Some of the impact on member towns may be offset by an increase of $140,000 in nonresident tuition to lower assessments.
Superintendent-Director Dr. Thomas J. Hickey stressed that the zero-based budget helps the district control costs, requiring detailed funding requests that are reviewed in November and December.
Hickey said he does not expect an increase in Chapter 70 funds.
“I think, going into this year with a stable enrollment — barring some inflationary increase — we shouldn’t bank, we should never bank, on that Chapter 70 money being higher,” he said. “We’re going to assume level.”
A public hearing on the budget proposal is slated for 7 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 25 in the Brass Lantern restaurant at SSVT.
“We build a budget from zero,” Hickey said. “I think this budget accomplishes several things.”
In addition to curriculum and technology resources, the need for expanded instruction and transportation are addressed in the proposed budget, Hickey said. While capital plans for security, facilities and vocational-technical programs are planned, investment in a stabilization fund for building renovation is also continuing.
“We continue to chip away at things we consider a priority,” Hickey said. “We’re not sitting and waiting, blaming anyone else for what needs we might have.”
An MSBA statement of interest submitted in April 2015 seeks support for building renovation to address the school’s heating system, lack of classroom space and small science labs, an aging modular unit, need for vocational program expansion and inadequate weight room and locker facilities. If SSVT is accepted into the program, the school will need to obtain towns’ approval and feasibility funds within 270 days.
That’s where the stabilization fund comes into play.
The fund now has a balance of $325,000 with an additional $50,000 sought in the FY ’18 budget. Hickey’s long-range goal of $500,000 in stabilization would avoid a spike in assessments or a draining of the excess and deficiency account.
“We focus on long-range planning and keeping the surprises to a minimum,” he said. “We’re very aggressive in applying for grants … our industry connections provide us with vocational equipment donations.”
Unlike other school budgets, SSVT must also provide some costs that towns would otherwise fund — health insurance, retirement contribution, payroll taxes, debt service, unemployment and snow removal, for example — total $2,138,573. That is 16.6 percent of SSVT’s total fiscal 2018 budget.
“This is true of all regional school districts,” Hickey said.
Goals for the next fiscal year include ongoing efforts to narrow the proficiency gap in math and science; growth in English language arts scores; career planning, cooperative education and work-based learning as well as increasing educational space and programs to assist traumatized students.
One of this year’s new programs is an online math enrichment course for all freshmen and sophomores, which is included in the math and science proficiency goal. The addition of a horticulture and landscape construction program and the inclusion of plumbing in the HVAC program are also planned next year.
Hickey also included an overview of the school’s accomplishments over the past year including a North River Collaborative project with the collision repair technology shop, completion of the boiler project, continued improvement of employer connections and curriculum improvement, development of post-secondary partnerships, security improvements and returning a soccer program to the athletics department.
Curriculum changes have involved a required civics course in the social studies department and development of a Design and Visual Communications — providing two possible career pathways on graduation — and Engineering Technology shops under Chapter 74 approval.
In other business, senior automotive student Jack Perkins of Hanover, was recognized as the student of the month for December. A student-athlete who plays ice hockey and lacrosse, he is “known to be a tremendous worker and a hard-nosed player” at work and in sports, Assistant Principal Sandra Baldner said.
“His teachers tell us he is a perfect representation of what SSVT is all about,” she said. He plans to attend Massachusetts Maritime Academy next year.
Computer technology teacher Stanley Zavatsky was honored as staff member of the month. Students nominate faculty and staff members for the award, which Assistant Principal Mark Aubrey presented Dec. 21.
“Mr. Zavatsky is not only a leader during the school day, but his dedication to our students extends beyond the school bell,” Aubrey said, noting Zavatsky is an advisor to the school’s Business Professionals of America Chapter which is active in community projects, and teaches two dual-enrollment classes at SSVT.