The Everett School Committee and School Administration appeared before the Everett City Council Budget Committee of the Whole last week to discuss the School Department budget, as proposed by Mayor Carlo DeMaria and the administration.
In the end, the Council took no action to make amendments to the proposed budget of $95,255,826, minus city chargebacks totaling $25,079,871. If approved in full by the council on Monday, June 25, the School Department will have an operational budget of $76,680,955.
Supt. Frederick Foresteire and Assistant Supt. Charles Obremski noted that this figure does include an additional $6.5 million included by Mayor DeMaria, which is above the amount required by the state as part of the City’s spending on schools, but has been included in recognition of the schools’ need.
Even with the additional $6.5 million proposed by the mayor, the School Department is still facing the elimination of 98 positions, including 67 teaching positions district-wide.
However, those staff reductions are based on the current pay structure in the School Department. Though the budget does include contracted step increases for teachers, it does not include a reserve for any raises that may be offered with a new contract.
Discussion of the budget did get a bit tense, as the Council asked questions about the lack of reserves amid the on-going contract negotiations with the teacher’s union.
Supt. Foresteire pointed out that the “Blue Ribbon Task Force,” established by Mayor DeMaria, had noted that there are no reserves set aside for contract negotiations, even as the Councilors attempted to clarify that the School Department will likely be forced to go before the Council again for a supplemental appropriation, if the teacher’s contract includes a raise.
Foresteire acknowledged that, saying, “We’ve never had to do that before, but we may have to this time,” and added that each 1-percent increase in the teacher’s contract would cost the district about $1 million.
One seeming point of contention for the School Department is the chargebacks that the school district is forced to pay to the city each year, as part of the contract that was signed between the schools and local government when Education Reform was enacted.
Obremski noted that most local schools districts signed similar types of agreements with their municipal governments, but that the chargebacks from Everett City Hall total more than $25 million, which reduces the amount of money that the district has to spend on programs.