Meeting Preview: Council, Schools to Get Current-Year Budget Picture

by | Jan 27, 2019

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

The Town Council and School Committee meet in joint session Monday night and they will get a 2019 budget update from finance consultant Mike D’Amico – the fiscal year is more than half over – as well as continuing the conversation over whether or not to keep the finance director position consolidated.

They will also revisit the School Committee’s request for additional funding this year. The Town Council voted earlier this month to give the schools $263,000 toward a $696,000 request, declining to give more before getting a better accounting of the state of the overall budget, which is planned for tonight.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at Swift Community Center. You can find the full agenda here.

D’Amico reviewed current year school spending with the School Committee last week. With half of the year gone, he said, the district appears to be in position to end the year close to even, though he said that is by no means guaranteed.

“What I can say now is the spending is very consistent year-to-year,” D’Amico said after the meeting. “The bulk of the spending, as is typical of any organization, is on the people.”

The $267,000 in additional money for the district will not affect how the budget ends up, D’Amico explained, since the money would be added but then subtracted as it was used. At the School Committee meeting last week, Supt. Mercurio said the additional money would be spent for facility safety upgrades ($146,491), to hire a behavioral specialist ($65,400) and for professional development around curriculum ($50,979).

At the same meeting, member Matt Plain pointed out that ending the year on or near to budget did not mean the district had the funding it needed as outlined in the programmatic audit done last summer (which found the district was underfunded by $1.2 million).

“On budget, but that doesn’t mean we’re meeting our programmatic needs,” Plain said.

Also on the agenda for Monday night, the two panels will vote on creation of an ad hoc consolidation committee to weigh keeping the finance director position consolidated as well as other potential consolidation.

At the special Town Council meeting Thursday night, the council heard from the IT and Community Services & Parks departments in what Council President has called continuing orientation for new councilors, of which there are four.

Also Thursday, during executive session, the Town Council discussed Acting Town Manager Joe Duarte’s recommendations for 2 percent raises for non-union town employees. According to President Schwager, the money – a total of $23,000 – had been put into the budget approved in June but had not yet been released, pending employee reviews. Schwager said the employees in question – a total of 14 department heads and others – would received their raises retroactive to July 1, the start of the fiscal year. Schwager said Duarte and Town Clerk Leigh Carney stepped out of the room during deliberations since both are among the 14 employees on the list. The council approved the raises in a vote taken during executive session; the vote was reported out when the council returned to open session.


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