A new request from the School Department to add another $500,000 from the City’s General Stabilization Fund to the School Department budget was forwarded to the Council’s Committee on Ways and Means with no fanfare and no real discussion Monday night.
According to a letter from Mayor Carlo DeMaria, which accompanied the request to the City Council, the funding would be used to fund ongoing and planned extra-curricular activities in the schools; school travel for student groups; and – most of all – to ensure that no teachers or programs have to be cut before the end of the current school year.
The request falls on a Council that has, in some respects, grown lukewarm to the School Department requests after a major battle last month for funding, a public battle at the Council where scores of students and parents showed up to demand the Council fund the school deficit. That resulted in a $5 million payment from the City to the Schools, as well as restrictions on things like travel expenses – a stipulation that apparently was reversed with Monday’s request from Mayor DeMaria.
The $500,000 requested by Mayor Carlo DeMaria is in addition to the money approved just a few weeks ago that was sought to close what was projected to be a $7 million to $9 million funding shortfall in this year’s school budget.
The School Department is apparently closing that projected gap with the additional $5 million that was already approved and available funds that were in school revolving fund accounts. The School Department had also enacted a spending freeze on all ‘non-essential spending,’ which would have included the planned school travel and extra-curricular programs.
If Monday’s funding request is approved, then those programs will be able to run through the end of the school year, while the city administration and School Department officials work on the budget for next year, Fiscal Year 2019.
“I met today with school administration and we are working together on a school budget for fiscal 2019 that will not require any mid-year budget transfers or requests,” Mayor DeMaria wrote in his letter that accompanied the request to the Council. “I appreciate your consideration of this important transfer.”
The item was referred to Ways and Mean on a motion by Councilor Rosa DiFlorio, who also asked that City Auditor Eric Demas, a representative of Mayor DeMaria’s office and a representative of the School Department administration be invited to appear before the committee to answer questions about the request.
- Council refining its rules on debate during Council meetings
Council President Peter Napolitano on Monday clarified for the public that City Council meetings going forward will feature less open, public debate and questioning of visitors to the chamber than in the past.
Following a number of high profile, and contentious public meetings, Napolitano noted the Council had taken part in a training session on Parliamentary procedure that would result in more debate and discussion taking place during subcommittee meetings, where Councilors will be invited to have more detailed and deliberate discussion of the items before them.
Items for consideration will then leave committee with a recommendation and a report, which will be shared with the entire Council, so they can be familiar with the item before voting on the matter before the full council.
All meetings of City Council subcommittees are televised on ECTV and are open to the public. However, the new format will allow councilors to focus on the issues before their committees, rather than attempt to debate a complete Council agenda every two weeks.
Councilors who are not members of a subcommittee are still able to attend or watch the meetings and ask their questions through their colleagues.
- Longtime COA member Green re-appointed
The City Council unanimously approved the three-year re-appointment of Verna Green to a new three-year term on the Council on Aging.
Green has been a longtime member of the COA, having been appointed by Mayor David Ragucci, Mayor John Hanlon and now twice by Mayor DeMaria. The 80-year old Green was congratulated by the entire Council and presented with a commendation for her long years of service to the city’s seniors.