Funding Fracas:Additional School Funding Still up in the Air, CIP Approved

The approval of the highly contested, additional $2.5 million in state Chapter 70 funds for the school budget, has been referred to the School Finance Review Committee by the City Council.

Monday’s Council meeting featured a crowd of teachers and school officials ready to speak about the $2.5 million appropriation that is now at City Hall, and will be heard publicly by the School Finance Review Committee on Nov. 1.

A motion to have Mayor Carlo DeMaria appear before the Council to discuss the funding was on the Council’s agenda Monday night.

“We have no authority to put money into the budget,” said Councilor-at-Large John Hanlon. “The Committee on School Finance is where it belongs.”

The School Finance Review Committee is scheduled to meet on Thursday, Nov. 1, at 5:30 p.m. in the City Council chambers at City Hall to take up the issue. That committee consists of members of the Council and School Committee as well as school administrators and city finance personnel. Any vote to potentially release the monies from City Hall to the School Department couldn’t come until after Nov. 13, Mayor DeMaria said after the meeting.

Last week, Sen. Sal DiDomenico met with the School Committee regarding the $2.5 million he secured in the state’s Supplemental Budget for the School Department.

The money was identified at the State House to go to Chapter 70 Schools aid with the purpose of alleviating the Everett School Department’s budget crisis, in particular that which came about due to the changes in definition of low-income students.

During the public participation portion of Monday night’s Council meeting, several school administrators addressed the need for those additional funds.

Assistant Supt. Kevin Shaw appeared before the Council and said the money is needed to help cut class sizes.

“Where will that money be allocated?” he said. “To hire teachers to reduce our class sizes.”

Administrators have met to determine the critical staffing needs and break down where teachers are needed, Shaw said.

If the Chapter 70 funds are approved, it will mean the hiring 18 general education and four special education teachers, one English Language Learner teacher, and six paraprofessionals across the district.

“We can put back the teachers fast for our students and bring back teachers who have been laid off, and we will have better class sizes,” said Shaw.

Only Council President Peter Napolitano and Councilors Fred Capone and Michael McLaughlin voted for the matter to go to a Council of the whole meeting and not the School Finance Review Commission.

“I see this as nothing more than a decision to kick the can down the road on $2.5 million that Sen. Sal DiDomenico got in additional Chapter 70 funding this year,” said McLaughlin. “We had the opportunity on Tuesday morning of this week to lower class room sizes at no additional cost to the taxpayers, yet it is sent to this make-believe School Committee at City Hall known as the School Finance Review Committee. I strongly believe this action helps no one, and just delays bringing teachers back to the classroom.”

  • In other business Monday night, the council approved this year’s $9.38 million Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).

On the heels of a recent council Ways and Means Committee meeting, there was more debate on whether to hold another special meeting on the issue or to take the vote than there was on the appropriation itself. Councilors seemed swayed by the assurances of Eric Demas, the city’s chief financial officer, that the debt payment on the CIP would have zero impact on the fiscal year 2019 budget. He said the first payment would not take place until six months after the debt issuance.

The CIP passed by a 10-1 vote, with President Peter Napolitano voting against.

The CIP is a regular spending item that focuses on capital improvements like refurbishing parks, buying streetlights, investing in municipal buildings and completing special projects.

This year’s CIP looks at investing in similar infrastructure projects.

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