Freetown Lakeville school budget said to be off by nearly $1 million

May 9, 2024

LAKEVILLE — The Freetown Lakeville Regional School Committee may be forced to rework next year’s budget. 

The proposed Fiscal Year 2025 came up almost a million dollars short, finance committee members from both towns in the district announced at the School Committee’s Wednesday, May 8 meeting. 

While this may mean making adjustments to the spending plan, the budget total will remain the same, School Committee members confirmed. “If there are discrepancies, and I’m not sure there are, it will be taken care of within the budget number we voted on,” said School Committee Vice Chair Will Sienkewicz. That number, he said, “cannot increase.” 

The school system’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2025 is $46,550,959, which was decided at the beginning of April. Freetown Finance Committee member Margaret French said that after painstakingly going through financial reports, finance committee members identified $830,922 worth of expenses that weren't accounted for.

School administrators responded that they would look over the finance committee’s reports and provide an answer in a timely manner through School Committee Chair John Burke. 

The vast majority of the discrepancy— more than $800,000 — was found in the student services budget. Other discrepancies were found in the budgets of the Freetown Lakeville Middle School, the central office and Information Technology services, French noted. 

Members of the Freetown Lakeville Administrative Office asked to be sent a copy of the financial reports and said upon reviewing them that they would be willing to have a conversation. 

No matter what, the voted-on budget number will not increase, said School Committee Vice Chair Will Sienkewicz.  

These differences appear to be the result of accounting errors and expenses that were left out of the total, said finance committee members. 

Staff turnover has been a challenge for the school district’s office, School Committee members mentioned during the meeting. 

Interim Director of Finance Deirdre Farrell-Welch took over for former director Kara Lees over a year ago. Farrell-Welch is scheduled to leave the position next week, after which Freetown Lakeville Middle School Principal Jack Higgins will assume the job. 

Sienkewicz said that the School Committee worked closely with the Finance Committee during the budgeting process and would “get them the clarification they need,” adding, “I understand that they have questions. We are more than happy to have conversations.”