Schools Wrestle with $9 Million Budget Gap

A large crowd of anxious teachers, students and angry parents crowded into the Everett High School library Monday night to hear the school administration’s explanation of planned mid-year budget cuts in the Everett schools.

In the end, most left still anxious, but cautiously optimistic that something might be done to save 110 school department jobs, including 58 teachers, as well as clerks, paraprofessionals, custodians and houseworkers.

“The only way we’re going to be able to close this gap, without new revenues, is through a reduction in personnel,” Superintendent of Schools Frederick Foresteire told the gathered crowd and School Committee members. “Personnel makes up about 80-percent of the school budget, that’s why we’re asking for a supplemental appropriation (from the city). It’s going to take more money.”

Assistant Superintendent Charles Obremski explained the nearly $9.2 million gap as a confluence of unexpected expenses in the current school year and reductions in certain state and local revenues streams that had been expected by the schools (see related story on costs this page).

Foresteire told the crowd that to close the budget gap, Mayor Carlo DeMaria will be heading to the City Council next Monday night to ask for an additional $3.2 million in new funding for the schools. Meanwhile, the school department, Foresteire said, could use some $1.3 million in school department revolving funds to help ease the crunch, and the planned layoffs would reduce approximately $2 million in costs from the budget as well.

However, without the previously promised state and local funding, it may not be enough to stave off further cuts down the road.

“We need to ask the City for $7.5 million more in order to avoid any layoffs,” said Superintendent Foresteire. “The city has to look closely at how it funds the schools, because they just aren’t giving enough.”

Mayor Carlo DeMaria told television news outlets after the meeting that he will indeed be asking for additional funding at next week’s City Council meeting, but indicated that the city doesn’t have enough money to cover the entire $9.1 million shortfall.

Following the explanation of the deficit at the meeting, Foresteire asked the School Committee for two votes. The first vote directs the Superintendent to ask the City Council for the additional funding needed, estimated at approximately $7.5 million in total, to avoid layoffs.

In a follow-up motion, the School Committee also directed the Superintendent and school administration to notify the 110 workers identified by the administration, that they may be laid off in the coming weeks.

After the meeting on Monday night DeMaria added, “As all departments within the City, the School Department was fully funded for their budget requests for this school year. Due to an increase in enrollment, high-needs students’ cost, transportation, and unanticipated capital costs the School Department is requesting additional funds beyond their original budget. We have been working with them to come up with mid-year adjustments and the most cost effective measures to resolve the situation.”

City officials had already given the School Department $2 million earlier in the year to make up a projected shortfall.  At the next City Council meeting on Monday night , DeMaria and City Councilors may approve another $4.5 million in additional funds to the school budget.

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