By Elizabeth F. McNamara
The Town Council voted to give the School Committee $263,000 in an additional appropriation on Jan. 14 with a promise to revisit the issue after they got a better handle on current year finances. They got that handle Monday night and then voted against giving the schools additional money this fiscal year (which ends June 30) – the town could see a budget deficit of $1.4 million.
Even with the partial extra appropriation, without the full request, the School Committee could decide to sue through a so-called Caruolo Action.
In a joint meeting with the School Committee Monday, councilors tried hard to both express their support for the schools while not committing additional funds. The said the $263,000 from Jan. 14 was the best they could do, especially in the face of the potential $1.4 million budget deficit outlined by financial consultant Mike D’Amico earlier Monday.
“I hear what you’re saying,” said Councilor Caryn Corenthal. “However, especially In light of the presentation by Mr. D’Amico tonight, i think we have to stabilize the town first.”
Councilman Mike Donegan said the issue now was that the town’s revenues currently are fixed but that with the 2020 budget, the council had some room to increase revenues and answer funding needs.
“I know you’re underfunded,” he said. “I just think we need to hold for four months.”
“I can’t explain why the prior council [used $1 million in reserves to balance the operating budget] but it’s put us in a very precarious situation,” said Council President Mark Schwager. “We can best support our schools if we build a balanced budget for 2020.”
After the joint meeting, School Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Mark said the School Committee would take up the issue in a special meeting Thursday.
“We certainly wish they felt they had been in a position to more fully consider our request so of course we’re disappointed,” said Mark. “We will have a better sense collectively of the School Committee’s feelings about how things went tonight and any decisions about next steps Thursday.”
The meeting Thursday will take place in the library at Cole Middle School at 6:30, preceded by an executive session at 6. The only item on the agenda beyond a call to order and adjournment is a “potential Caruolo Action” – suing the town over lack of adequate funding. (Find the agenda here.)