Added Costs Threaten to Cause School Budget Deficit This Year

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?”

O;’Connell: “Yes.”

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.

6 thoughts on “Added Costs Threaten to Cause School Budget Deficit This Year

  1. They are going to end up with more lawsuits when someone gets hurt at Crowell. Part-time principal (5 schools), Part-time nurse, No lead teacher, No one in charge, deteriorating facilities (duck tape is their best friend). Up until a couple of weeks ago there was no communication system. A teacher went out on her own to find enough money to buy Walkie-talkies to communicate throughout the 3 story building with the only bathrooms located in the basement. If there is ever a medical emergency time is of the essence. A secretary shouldn’t be responsible for taking care of sick or injured children. She is not trained or licensed for that. What if someone has a severe allergic reaction to something? Who is going to recognize the signs if they haven’t been trained or licensed? Selfish school department thinking only about saving money!

    I am sure similar issues are happening in other Haverhill Schools too but they wont be exposed until someone gets hurt.

  2. Didn’t Haverhill just spend like $40 million renovating the high school and the boilers were not taken care of ? That’s a ton of money not to do some basic fixes like that. Crazy numbers we are hearing here. This is normal for a Scully operation. You must watch him all the time. He cares about the kids but you have to watch the money as he will spend until the money tree is bare.

  3. Wonder how many lawsuits are the result of the mismanaged special education department? You can’t just deny children with special needs their services and expect parents to not do anything about it.

  4. What’s the problem?
    In FY 2013 mayor Taxman raised taxes 2.5% and then ended the year with a $3,500,000.00 surplus. There’s plenty of money available to needed repairs and equipment replacements.

    For those people who enjoy math here’s something to think about. Every year when this tax and spend mayor raises taxes by 2.5% Haverhill residents pay $90,000.00 in additional taxes on the $3.5Million SURPLUS funds that were not needed in FY 2013. So not only did taxpayers get scammed by being charged that $3.5Million but they are being taxed on it EVERY year into perpetuity. Yearly compounding also adds $2,300.00 to the city budget EVERY year just for the 2.5% increase on the $90,000.00 interest cost. Within 10 years there will be over $1Million built into the city budget that taxpayers will pay EVERY year just on the interest on $3.5Million.