Nahant superintendent fears lack of funding for Johnson School

NAHANT – Without an override or the town giving the district additional money from other departments in town the education provided by Johnson School could be minimalist at best next year, according to Superintendent Philip Deveaux.?We wouldn’t have a nickel,” Deveaux said.The preliminary budget of $3 million for Nahant Public Schools is much higher than it is for the current fiscal year and much of the increase is due to special education costs.Deveaux explained a couple of new students with substantial needs are moving into the district and the special education budget is expected to cost $228,000 more in FY’12.According to the preliminary budget, tuition for special education students placed in private schools is expected to jump from $24,251 to $167,861.He said the special education transportation budget is expected to almost triple. For FY’11 the district budgeted $30,935 for transporting special education students and Deveaux said he expects SPED transportation to cost $105,000 for FY’12. He pointed out the district expects to lose $80,000 in special education circuit breaker funds next year as well, which will bring the deficit up to almost $300,000.?We’re not going to be able to recover without an override,” Deveaux said. “We would be balanced without SPED increases. I have looked at every variation.”Deveaux added if he removed every line item from the budget including pencils, books, art, music and other programs he would be unable to come up with the $200,000 needed to cover the new special education costs.School Committee Chairman Mickey Long asked Deveaux if Johnson School could provide an adequate education without an override or the town allocating money from elsewhere in its budget.?It would be minimalist,” Deveaux said.School Committee member Christine Kendall said the town needs to find a way to fund the school.?You have to provide the money or shut it (Johnson Elementary School) down,” Kendall said. “If you shut it down you can kiss your property values goodbye.”Long, who has a child in Johnson School, asked Deveaux if he should prepare to send his daughter to Swampscott next fall.Deveaux said operationally it would be impossible to work out a plan to close Johnson School and tuition all the students out to other districts by this fall.Deveaux said it is important for taxpayers to realize the law mandates funding SPED and it needs to be explained to the community in a “non-threatening way” what the options are.?People have to visually see what the reductions would be,” he said.Deveaux said he would adjust the budget as he receives additional information on the state budget and he expects to meet with the Finance Committee next month.

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