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Easton Finance Committee Approves School Budget, Recommends Town Operating Budget

In a split vote, the Easton Finance Committee approved the budget's largest line item Wednesday night.

The Easton Finance Committee approved a school budget for Fiscal Year 2013 Wednesday night in the amount of $33,731,471 - a 4.23 percent increase from FY12.

The school budget was the final department budget in need of approval before the committee recommended Easton's FY13 operating budget (article 16 in this year's Town Meeting Warrant).

The overall operating budget is in the amount of $68,388,097, according to the latest budget memo released by Town Administrator David Colton. While the warrant article was unanimously recommended by the Finance Committee Wednesday night, it has yet to be recommended by the Board of Selectmen, which will meet shortly before Town Meeting.

The Finance Committee's approval of the school budget wasn't without debate from some members, though. While five voted to approve, two voted against approval and one abstained.

School officials provided the Finance Committee with a budget summary. In previous years, the committee was provided with a line-by-line detail.

"We are a review committee," Finance Committee member Jack Waksman said. "We're supposed to make a recommendation and we don't have the information to make a recommendation."

School Committee Chair Jane Martin, who was present at the Finance Committee meeting, said a full budget detail was not provided because of ongoing negotiations with the school's unions, including the teacher's union.

Martin said the school committee, , has made a commitment not to exceed the bottom line of $33,731,471 provided to the Finance Committee and Board of Selectmen, regardless of the final outcome of negotiations.

"We are going to live with this budget for the year," she said.

The school budget calls for the addition of a social studies teacher in the high school and an additional teacher to sustain a new "block and drop" schedule. Due to lower enrollments, the budget eliminates three positions in the elementary levels.

School officials are also compensating for the increase of bus fees by raising

In addition to Waksman, Finance Committee member Benjamin Hampton also voted against the budget, citing lack of detail. Bob Mielde abstained.

Waksman said that while he wasn't necessarily opposed to the bottom line, he felt the school should provide the committee with more information.

Town Meeting is scheduled for Monday night at 7 p.m. in the Oliver Ames auditorium on Lothrop Street. The latest Town Meeting Warrant, including Article 16 - the Operating Budget - is attached.

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