By Joseph Domelowicz Jr.
When the City Council meets with the School Department on Wednesday, May 31, to discuss the proposed school budget for fiscal Year 2018, they’ll be considering a school budget that is $357,854 less than last year, even with $2 million in additional funding proposed by Mayor Carlo DeMaria and City Auditor Eric Demas.
The result is likely to be decreased staffing levels across all school departments –teachers, paraprofessionals, clerks, administration and custodians – and in all schools for FY 2018.
Assistant Supt. Charles Obremski, who oversees the budget preparation for the schools, said this week that the proposed budget leaves “about 70 positions that are currently in the budget this year, out of the budget for next year.”
Obremski was not complaining about the City’s commitment to the Schools, but was instead explaining the realities of a change in state education funding related to Everett’s status as an economically disadvantaged district.
The state’s formula for funding such school districts offers between $3,100 and $4,200 per student, but failed to count approximately 2,000 students enrolled in Everett Schools due to a change in the way the calculation is made for low-income students. The result is a decrease in state education funding for Everett of several million dollars, and even with the infusion of $2 million in cash from the city, the Everett Schools are likely to see a decrease in the coming year.
“We should’ve received $6.5 million to $8 million more in state funding,” added Obremski.
According to the budget summary, the proposed 2018 fiscal school budget would shrink from $75,043,144 to $74,685,290. With fixed cost increases, such as employee insurance and utilities and previously negotiated salary commitments, the only way to balance the budget was to eliminate positions.
Obremski did note that there is some hope, given that the legislature has not yet finalized the state budget for 2018, and recent press about the impact school districts like Everett, may cause the state to add additional funding. However, that is not a given.
“There are about 10-15 school districts like ours, such as Chelsea and Brockton, which are being very heavily impacted,” said Obremski. “If the legislature makes a budget adjustment and adds funding to help those districts then we could avoid some of the cuts.”
In the meantime, the district us expecting the cuts to impact class sizes in all schools.
“We only had a couple of hot spots this year – at the Madeline English – where class sizes were over 30, but next year I’d anticipate that several schools will have class sizes in the high 20s,” said Obremski.
The fiscal year 2018 school budget will be discussed at the City Council’s Budget Committee on May 31 beginning at 6 p.m.