School Committee to Consider $63M Operating Budget

The annual public hearing on the Everett School Department’s proposed budget was held last night (Tuesday, April 16) at 5:30 p.m., after the Independent’s deadline.

According to Superintendent of Schools Frederick Foresteire and Assistant Superintendent Charles Obremski, the School Committee was scheduled to preside over the presentation of a $63,6769,532 proposed school operating budget that is approximately $6 million more than last year’s operating budget of $57,634,116.

In all the school budget totals nearly $82 million, with some $18 million in local charge backs to the city included. The city’s share of the overall budget is $23,890,066.

“Seventy percent of our budget comes from state aid, so the School budget has a minimal to no impact on the city’s tax rate,” said Superintendent Foresteire. “In fact, the city’s contribution is actually going down this year from what it was last year, because of anticipated increases to state aid.”

73 percent of the proposed budget goes to staff salaries and fully 85-percent of the funding goes directly to programs for students and learning. Also, despite the increase in the proposed school funding, the projected increase of 500 new student enrollments means that Everett schools still lag behind other area school district on a per pupil expenditure basis. With the current budget proposal, the Everett school system expects to spend $12,368 per student, lower than all neighboring school districts except for Malden, which comes in at $12,267 per pupil. The state average for per pupil expense is $13,658.

According to Obremski, the proposed budget will utilize the $6 million increase by focusing on three main areas.

“First we will look to hire teachers and reduce class sizes and we are looking to add security cameras at all schools to increase student safety,” explained Obremski. “In addition, in past years we had open gym in the morning to allow early drop-off of students who se parents have to go to work early, we’re hoping to bring that back this year.”

Both Obremski and Foresteire noted that the budget presentation on Tuesday is a draft budget based on the initial state local aid and chapter 70 figures that were included in the Governor’s state budget proposal in January. The state still must finalize the state fiscal year budget for 2014, which begins July 1, 2013, and there is a possibility that the final state budget may raise or lower the projected chapter 70 aid the school department is working with now.

“The way the budget process works, all cities and towns and schools are working off the governors proposed budget at this point, but we are also watching what the House and Senate are proposing for the budget,” said Obremski.

“Once the state passes a budget for the year, the school department and the city will go back and adjust their proposals, based on what is actually passed,” added Foresteire.

Given that the House has already passed a smaller budget than the one proposed by the Governor, it is possible that the final budget for the schools will have to be adjusted downward. Before that happened the State Senate will pass its own version of the budget and then the two bodies will meet in conference to negotiate a compromise budget for the state. Once the legislature passes the budget, the governor will sign it or veto portions of it and cities and schools can adjust and take the final budget votes.

As for the priorities outlined by Obremski in the proposed budget, new teacher hirings are self-explanatory. However, the issue of new security cameras and early morning open gym times are the items that may interest parents.

“We’re looking to include new security cameras at all elementary school entrances, with monitors in the office so that school secretaries can see who is trying to enter the building and make a decision about whether or not to let them in,” said Obremski.

“With the open gym, we have a lot of parents who have to be to work at 7 in the morning, so if we can we want to be able to open the schools and staff it with some teachers who are willing to come in and make sure the children are supervised before school hours,” he explained.

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