Nauset Budget Up Despite Cuts

by Ryan Bray
The Nauset Regional School Committee last week voted to adopt a proposed operating budget increase of 5.3 percent for the coming fiscal year.  FILE PHOTO The Nauset Regional School Committee last week voted to adopt a proposed operating budget increase of 5.3 percent for the coming fiscal year. FILE PHOTO

ORLEANS – Nauset school officials were not shy about making budget cuts for the coming fiscal year. But in the end, there was only so much that could be done to keep budget increases down.

The Nauset Regional School Committee on March 7 voted to approve a total proposed fiscal 2025 operating budget of $29,243,848, an increase of 5.3 percent from the current fiscal year.

Administrators at Nauset Regional High School and Nauset Regional Middle School went deep into their respective budgets to keep increases at 3.8 and 3.4 percent respectively. But rising regional costs, including health insurance and transportation, as well as a projected increase in the number of students attending school out of district, served to increase the budget.

Judith Schumacher, who sits on the committee’s budget and finance subcommittee, said the subcommittee went through the budget several times with district officials and school administrators before settling on the new figure, which will be presented to the district’s four member towns of Orleans, Brewster, Eastham and Wellfleet.

“I’d like to say we could bring those [regional costs] down, but I guess the health insurance company doesn’t agree with that or the transportation,” she said. “So I think it is what it is.”

Giovanna Venditti, the district’s director of finance and operations, said preparing the fiscal 2025 budget “came with its challenges.” Those include a 9.2 percent increase in the cost of transportation as well as an 8 percent increase in employee health insurance costs. Health insurance for district retirees also went up 13 percent, as did the cost of special education transportation, which saw a 28 percent increase.

“There was no method for talking out of the region-only budget what would be required to bring it anywhere near in line,” Chris Easley, who chairs the regional subcommittee, said when reached by phone Monday. “There aren’t those freedoms.” The “region only” budget is that portion of the annual assessment that includes costs related to transportation and health insurance.

The new budget is also impacted by the number of Nauset students attending school out of district. School choice and charter school costs are up 21.7 percent as more students opt to attend school elsewhere. Meanwhile, fewer students are choosing to attend Nauset High from out of town. Incoming tuition from students attending Nauset from Provincetown and Truro is down 8.7 percent, with 13 fewer students expected to attend the high school from those towns next year.

“I think it’s time to just take a good hard look at Nauset schools and what impact our product might have on some of those numbers,” committee member Josh Stewart said. “It used to be that Nauset was the school to choice into. People weren’t choosing elsewhere, everybody wanted to be here. That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.”

“If we can get our income up we can help out with that, and that’s our challenge, I think,” Schumacher said.

But the operating budget doesn’t reflect the total cost for the district for the coming fiscal year. The district’s overall assessment stands at $37,369,351, which is an increase of 14 percent from the current year. That figure accounts for an additional $7.8 million in debt related to construction of the new regional high school, which is due to come online next fiscal year. The overall assessment also includes $602,313 for capital plan projects.

There are also some costs that can’t be accounted for in the budget. The district is currently in negotiations with three of its unions, and Easley said those costs won’t be known until agreements are in place.

“There is a reserve for negotiations,” he said. “That may be enough, or that may be too much or too little. You don’t know until you know where the negotiations land.”

With just over 46 percent of the regional district student population, Brewster carries the highest assessment of the four district towns for fiscal 2025 at $17.4 million. Orleans’ proposed share is $8.3 million, followed by approximately $7.7 million for Eastham and $4.2 million for Wellfleet.

As annual budget growth beyond 3 percent becomes more the norm, committee member Griffin Ryder raised concerns that it could eventually be met with resistance by residents in the four district towns.

“I just worry about the override well and I worry about continually having to go for overrides. At some point, it might not work out for us,” he said.

But Easley said Monday that for all the challenges the new budget presented, he’s confident in what the committee is prepared to bring to the member towns for review.

“I wish it was lower, but I do believe we did our job, meaning we were very budget conscious and made sure that the items that were in there were what was required to maintain quality education,” he said.

Email Ryan Bray at