April 4, 2017 – The School Committee voted 6-1 Tuesday (4/4/17) night to approve a $35.4 million budget, 4 percent higher than last year’s budget and the highest possible increase it can ask of the Town Council under state law. Getting to that number still required cutting four paraprofessional positions ($180,000), one library media specialist ($117,000), and one second grade teacher ($117,000), as well as a $327,000 cut in facilities and maintenance and using more than 50 percent – $919,955 – of the EGSD fund balance.
“Taking money out of the fund balance is a bad idea but everything up here is a bad idea,” said Committee member Jeff Dronzek, chair of the School Committee finance committee.
The athletics budget was cut of $43,500. Supt. Victor Mercurio had proposed a $20,500 cut of that would come from intramural sports at the elementary and middle schools – including flag football and walking and running programs. The additional $23,000 was not designated.
“This is just a step in the process,” Chairwoman Carolyn Mark said during deliberations. The School Committee is required by law to give a budget number to the Town by April 15 but the School Committee remains in charge of how that budget is spent.
Committeewoman Mary Ellen Winters was the only member to vote against the budget proposal. After the meeting, she said she would have preferred a budget with a lower increase, more in the range of a 3.5 percent increase instead of 4 percent.
The budget discussion will move to Town Hall. Town Manager Tom Coyle must present a budget to the Town Council by May 1. The Town Council must adopt a budget by June 10. This will be the first year that there is no Financial Town Meeting for formal adoption of the budget – voters narrowly approved abolition of the FTM in November.
For the past several years, the Council has only given the School Committee an increase of 2 percent or less in its budget. The School Committee’s budget is based on a 4 percent increase. If the council were to adopt a budget with a 2 percent increase, the School Committee would need to cut an additional $680,384 (each percentage point equals $340,192).