Haverhill School Superintendent James F. Scully.
Haverhill Public Schools leaders looking to contain a “potential” $500,000 deficit in the current school budget in light of added costs for boiler repairs at the high school, legal cases and replacement special education transport vans.
A mid-year budget analysis found salary and special education accounts, among others, could be higher than budgeted. The assessment was presented to the Haverhill School Committee Thursday by Schools Business Manager Brian O’Connell. He told Mayor James J. Fiorentini the deficit projection is a result of upcoming expenditures, including “executive session” actions regarding legal issues, and “without taking into account any other developments we can’t foresee.”
Fiorentini: “Does that $500,000 take into account the pay raise going to the teachers?”
Fiorentini: “Does it take into account if other unions were to get the same increase?”
O’Connell: “Not at this point.”
Fiorentini: “So you’re saying special ed will be over, salary accounts will be over, what else will be over?”
O’Connell: “Potentially transportation but in the special education area, other area such as buildings and grounds.”
Superintendent James F. Scully also noted main boiler components at the high school, including a broken combustion chamber, could cost the department up to $65,000 to repair “right away.”
“We’re getting hit with a $60,000 bill for the boilers at Haverhill High School that are failing. That’s got to be done right away. That isn’t in the budget. And Tommy (Geary, supervisor of facilities) is cutting back on other areas to deal with that,” Scully said. “But this is exactly where we were last year. If you remember, we were ($1.2 million) in the hole and now the projection is down to $500,000. I think, as Brian indicated, there are some legal cases we need to discuss (with you) in executive session that can better answer some of these questions.”
Other potential expenditures facing the department, according to Scully, could include seat belt installations in school buses and replacing aging transport vans, as he explained to Committeeman Paul A. Magliocchetti.
Scully: “The vans are old, they’re not cared for. The mechanics are doing their best to keep them up.”
Magliocchetti: “Yeah, maintenance costs are huge.”
Scully: “And it’s just been one of those issues in Haverhill that we let slide and slide and slide. Now it’s coming to bite us.”
Meanwhile, O’Connell said he would update the committee “when and as we need to make reductions.”
“We need to be very prudent, very careful, very specific in terms of the expenditures that we make,” O’Connell said. “Look for area where economies can be achieved, where reductions can properly be made without justifying the educational operation of the schools and operate through the remainder of the year with a very close, ongoing monitoring process. We do that anyway, we should do that anyway, but at the same point this year it is particularly vital.”
O’Connell, also a Worcester School Committee member, was hired by the Haverhill committee as Business Manager last August with a three year contract and a starting salary of $125,000 per year. He was selected during a public final interview in late June based on a “mock budget” presentation and after the current $70.1 million school budget was passed by the school committee and by city council as part of the total city budget.