YARMOUTH — Superintendent of Schools Andrew Dolloff said his proposed budget of just less than $30 million for fiscal year 2020-21 is in direct response to anticipated growth in enrollment and a significant increase in debt due to a four-school construction bond approved two years ago.

The proposed school spending package is an increase of $3.2 million, or 12%, over the current $26.6 million budget, Dolloff said during a presentation to the School Committee earlier this month. Tax impact projections were not available by The Forecaster’s deadline.

Andrew Dolloff, superintendent of the Yarmouth schools, is proposing a $29.9 million budget for fiscal year 2021. File

Yarmouth schools are estimating a 4% increase in enrollment in the new academic year, which, Dolloff said, “means more teachers and support staff to meet the needs of those additional students.”

Changing demographics also mean more students need additional services, “especially in the areas of social-emotional wellness.”

Since it’s “our desire to ensure that our schools are places where students, staff, and visitors are physically and emotionally safe and healthy, … (we) require more counselors, social workers, and student support personnel,” Dolloff added.

Yarmouth schools are now serving a student population of 1,697, which is expected to increase to 1,765 in the fall.

The increase includes English language-learners, Dolloff said, who need additional support in both language acquisition and community integration. There are 53 ELL students this school year, compared to only three several years ago.

While personnel is the biggest piece of the budget pie, at 80% of operating costs, Dolloff said the biggest driver of the proposed increase, “by far” is an additional $1 million in debt service for construction projects now going on at Rowe, Yarmouth Elementary, Harrison Middle and Yarmouth High schools.

In 2018, voters approved borrowing $52 million for upgrades at all four schools, which include new classroom space, increased security, and specialized space for programs such as art and music.

Dolloff said he understands the wish for what he termed “tax stabilization,” but said the district has a number of needs that should be met. Among those are hiring a district-wide school resource officer at a cost of $64,000.

Other new positions in the proposed budget include a part-time attendance coordinator at the high school for $40,000; part-time social worker and substance abuse counselors at the high school for $20,000 each; a new eighth grade teacher at Harrison Middle for $80,000; a new teacher at the high school, split among subject areas, also for $80,000; and a new world language teacher at Rowe School for $64,000.

Other cost increases include a proposal to lease or purchase three new school buses for $110,000. Dolloff said five buses are operating beyond their useful lives and at least two are expected to fail inspection this spring. A new custodian is needed at the high school, for $36,500, because with the school construction project another 28,000 square feet will be added to the physical plant.

Even with the proposed increase in the FY ’21 budget, Dolloff said many requests at each school will remain unmet. Most notably, he said class sizes at Rowe, Yarmouth Elementary and Harrison Middle schools will continue to “hover near or above recommended levels” per the School Committee’s policy. Dolloff also said guidance staff at Yarmouth High School are operating well above the recommended student-to-staff ratio.

The School Committee is expected to hold a final vote at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 12 at the American Legion Log Cabin, 196 Main St. A presentation on school spending will come before council on Thursday, March 19, and a public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for April 2.

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