Chapter 70 Money Stalls at City Hall Despite School Committee Request

Mayor Carlo DeMaria said the administration will not pass on $2.5 million in additional funds for the Everett Schools recently designated by the State Legislature to help cover the losses for funding formula flaws.

Instead, the mayor said they would retain the money in City accounts to help lower the tax rate for property owners. He pointed to the $6.5 million in additional monies already directed to the schools this year from the City during the budget process last June.

It was a similar action that was taken last year, and a move that partly inflamed the school budget showdown of last spring.

Typically, the money is designated by the legislature and sent to the City. The School Committee requests the money, and it is then pass on by the administration to the Council, who has the ultimate voting power to approve the matter.

In this case, DeMaria said he would not be passing the money on for a vote of the Council, which was expected to vote on the matter last night if it had been on the agenda, but it was not. The School Committee had officially voted to request the money on Oct. 1 at its meeting.

“The School Department was fully funded for their budget requests for this school year, with an additional $6.5 million in City funds above initial net school spending,” said the mayor. “In addition, last year, my office and the City Council provided $5.5 million in additional funds to the school budget to make up a projected shortfall. The $2.5 million provided to the City in the state supplemental budget will be used to replenish the municipal budget and reduce our residents’ tax burden.”

The announcement came late on Tuesday afternoon.

Earlier on Tuesday, Supt. Fred Foresteire said he hadn’t heard whether or not the mayor intended to pass the money on. However, he said he was concerned when he did not see the item on the City Council agenda for Tuesday night, Oct. 9.

“Sal DiDomenico got that for us and 11 other communities in the Commonwealth within the state’s Supplemental Budget,” said Foresteire. “The State Legislature approved money to these communities, including Everett, because they get hurt with the new formula for counting Economically Disadvantaged students…I just hope the mayor can find his way to take care of it. It goes right to the bringing back teachers and reducing class sizes. That’s what it was intended for.”

Late Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Sal DiDomenico said the money he secured was intended for Everett Schools. The same situation played out in Chelsea with the same appropriation. That money in Chelsea is now in the process of passing from the City to the School Department there, where it will bring back teachers, crossing guards and school librarians.

DiDomenico said the same should happen in Everett.

“The purpose of this additional Chapter 70 funding was to be used for our public schools,” he said. “I have been advocating for more resources for our schools since the state formula was adjusted, and we have been successful. By definition, Chapter 70 money is funding for our public schools and that was the expectation when these funds were secured.”

Councilor Michael McLaughlin said on Tuesday that not having the item on the Council calendar was an indicator to him that the money was going to be held in City accounts again. He said he is one councilor who doesn’t support that move.

“It’s the schools’ money, not the city’s money,” he said. “The bigger issue I have is we never gave the $6.5 million with the understanding or agreement that if we were to gain additional funding, we would go back to recoup some of that money. If that was the agreement at the beginning, that would be one thing, but it was clearly not the case…The mayor said we were in a financial spot to give $6.5 million dollars and that’s what we did with no terms attached.”

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