Guest Op-Ed: DeMaria Weighs in on School Budget

By Mayor Carlo DeMaria

The proposed FY22 budget developed by the School Administration demonstrates a strong plan for the future of the Everett Public Schools. The proposed annual budget demonstrates the aggressive investments needed to meet the 21st Century needs of our educators and students. The 3-year investment plan allows our schools to take a large step toward closing achievement and opportunity gaps. I commend the Everett Public School Administration for their due diligence in creating the budget recommendation. 

One of my greatest tasks as Mayor is my fiscal responsibility to every Everett resident and over the past year, the City has been faced with many fiscal challenges. We are currently confronting a serious tax dispute with Exelon where there is potential for the City of Everett to lose millions of dollars in tax revenue. We also do not know if local excise tax and meals tax collections will suffer. With so many residents out of work and the burden the pandemic has placed on numerous businesses, I am concerned that our free cash will not be at the same level  as years prior. Additionally, the way that the American Rescue Plan Act was written may forbid municipalities from using the funds as we had originally intended, which could create additional funding issues. Because of these circumstances, the most responsible way for the City of Everett to budget is by  utilizing FY19 as a base year when calculating our revenue loss.  

Through the three phases of the federal Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ESSER) grant, the Everett Public Schools will receive a total of $20,993,444 throughout the next few years. This funding is intended to provide districts with emergency relief funds to address the impact that COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools that are providing educational services. Additionally, I am under the impression that local municipalities will continue to receive additional aid after 2024. In FY22, the Student Opportunity Act will allocate an additional $9.3 Million above what was received in FY21 by the Everett Public Schools. Because of the advocacy of Senator DiDomenico and Representative McGonagle, I am optimistic that this funding will continue to increase in the years ahead. This funding is intended to support the proposed FY22 budget, which will allow the City of Everett to adequately fund the Everett Public Schools without the need to increase taxes on our residents.

If decisions about school funding could be made solely on the basis of principles and as a matter of policy, these decisions would be so much easier to make. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Decisions about municipal finances must be made with the interests of everyone in mind. As it was last year, and at least for FY22, Everett must contend with the continuing impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has left on our community, its residents, and its businesses. As leaders, we must acknowledge that we are in a state of uncertainty regarding the future of our fiscal health. However, we are fortunate that we don’t have to burden our taxpayers with increased taxes in order to supplement the EPS budget. Adequate resources have been provided by Congress to address the gaps we face. .  We are able to help advance the educational needs of our students without risking further burdening their families with higher taxes. Therefore, I would suggest that the EPS use the Federal funding intended to aid school districts to ensure all needs are met in FY22.

Carlo DeMaria is the Mayor of Everett.

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