Mandate Likely To Increase Westborough Special Ed Costs

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The Westborough School Committee hears a report from director of pupil services Sherrie Stevens about the upcoming special education budget. Photo Credit: File photo

WESTBOROUGH, Mass. — A significant increase in mandated out-of-district special education tuition will cause a "large impact" in the Westborough budget despite several cuts by new director of pupil services Sherrie Stevens, the School Committee learned at Monday's meeting. 

"If everyone was lulled into the idea that nothing was going to change this year, that's not the case," School Committee Vice Chairman Stephen Doret said. "It will be up to the administration and the School Committee to figure out how we're going to deal with it."

The increase of $575,948 in required tuition was offset by small cuts in other items, including school supplies and textbook budgets. The net increase for the proposed special education budget will be $296,523. 

"[The budget] was based on in-depth analysis looking at the figures," Stevens said. "We tried our best to be proactive."

She highlighted the challenges for the district when it comes to budgeting, as well as how the system will be restructured. Unfunded state mandates, assisting families in crisis and limited support from state agencies are just some of the concerns that Stevens noted. 

Restructuring efforts will include advances in building capacity, entrance and exit criteria and development of curriculum criteria. Currently, 15 percent of Westborough students have special needs, slightly below the state average of 17 percent. 

Stevens also has requested the addition of one full-time special education teacher at the high school level. 

"We have some programmatic needs at the high school that we need to address," she said. 

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