By Joseph Domelowicz Jr.
School Department officials met with the City Council Committee of the Whole on Thursday night, March 2, to explain their need for a $1.3 million transfer for the current school year and how they will use the funds to get through the school year.
On hand to support the School Department request were State Senator Sal DiDomenico, State Representative Joseph McGonagle and Mayor Carlo DeMaria, all of whom offered their support for the schools and explained their efforts to help the School Department close the unforeseen budget deficit.
According to Superintendent Frederick Foresteire, who discussed the need for the transfer with the Independent on Monday, the Everett School Department identified a nearly $5.3 million budget deficit shortly after the school budget was passed last year.
“This was all caused by changes that were made to the state’s school funding formula, which left Everett and about 10 or 12 other school districts with a reduction in state aid, while some wealthier school districts actually received more money,” explained Foresteire. “The Department of Education realizes that some mistakes were made in the formula and they’re trying to do some things to make amendments or changes to the formula for next year, but they can’t do anything for this year.”
The state education funding, known as Chapter 70 aid, is determined by a formula that includes several factors such as the size of the community, the average income of local residents, and the amount of local municipal funding provided to the schools, among other factors. In Fiscal Year 2017 – the current budget year – the state made some minor adjustments to the formula in an effort to spread the funding around to more school districts. However, the changes resulted in a re-apportionment of the funding, to some extent, and some districts were negatively impacted, while others saw increases.
Foresteire said that Everett’s schools were forced to lay off 96 employees to close the $5.3 million gap, but based on assurances from Mayor DeMaria that additional funding would be made available, the school department did start hiring back some of those staff starting in October and November and has been able to bring back about 50 staff positions.
“We are still severely understaffed for the remainder of this year, but thanks to the support of the Mayor and the City Council, we have been able to reduce the impact on the students,” added the Superintendent.
The additional $1.3 million is all of the additional funding that the schools will seek for the remainder of this school year, but the transfer still has to be approved by the full Council in a vote at its next meeting on March 13.
Foresteire added that the school is basing its budget planning for next fiscal year on the current formula for Chapter 70, despite the Department of Education’s intent to once again modify the formula.
“We’re going to make our budget plan based on what we know now and if the state is able to change the formula and give us some more funding, we will adjust our budget plan at that time,” he said.