GROTON -- School closures and the elimination of athletic programs are on the "doomsday list" of potential cuts in the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District as officials attempt to make up for a $2.7 million budget shortfall.
Members of the Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee met with Interim Superintendent Anthony Bent, incoming Superintendent Kristan Rodriguez, principals and other district employees to run through potential budget cuts that would save as much as $2,766,000.
School officials met Thursday after a joint meeting with selectmen and finance officers from Groton and Dunstable in which the towns offered help in balancing the district's books but said savings would also have to be made by the schools.
That meeting was prompted after the discovery late last year of an error in the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District's books that showed it was spending more than it was taking in. Although the approved school operating budget for fiscal 2013 stood at $35,200,000, the total obligations by the district came to $36,204,212, a difference of $1,004,000.
Initial cuts were able to eliminate the shortfall for that year while further efforts, including more cuts and new sources of revenue, were able to reduce the shortfall for 2014 to less than $464,485.
But since the initial problem with the budget has a rollover effect in subsequent years, a major problem remained for 2015 where an estimated $2.
"Just because we're talking about it here today doesn't mean it's going to happen," School Committee member James Frey cautioned residents and town officials who also attended the working session.
"What we're doing is contingency planning," added fellow committee member John Giger.
Some residents wondered why layoffs could not be concentrated more among administrators than teachers, a subject addressed by Bent when he noted that many people "wildly misunderstood" the importance of administrators to the district.
"You cannot have a high-performing school district without high-performing administrators," he said.
Suggested cuts to the administration include a human resources manager, assistant superintendent for curriculum, and director of technology. If all three positions were eliminated, it would save the district $289,000.
Other major savings areas proposed were three foreign-language teachers in the middle school; closure of the Boutwell and Swallow Union Schools; relocation of the central offices from the Prescott School to Boutwell; ending the athletics program; elimination of such support staff as technology integration specialists, tutors, para-librarian, and reading and math coaches; and reductions in principals' miscellaneous funds for "supplies and materials."
Also suggested was outsourcing custodial services to a private company for a savings of $334,000 a year.
A vote on the proposed fiscal 2015 budget with its assessments to both Groton and Dunstable is expected to take place by March 5.