School Committee Juggles Dollars to Fund Vocational, Early Childhood Programs

Haverhill City Hall. (WHAV News file photograph.)

City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to accept a school budget that is $425,000 out of balance.

At a public hearing last week on the School Department budget, School Committee members reaffirmed their support for spending $425,000 more than the mayor has allocated for Fiscal Year 2019.

However, Mayor James J. Fiorentini repeated his intention to present to City Council his original budget of just over $84 million, rather than the $84.43 million that the School Committee approved. The mayor contends the city charter allows the council to cut the budget, but not to add to its bottom line.

The council meets beginning at 7 p.m. in the City Council office, Room 204, on the second floor of Haverhill City Hall. The meeting is open to the public and WHAV will broadcast the meeting live.

Fiorentini’s $84 million budget for FY2019, which begins July 1, represents a 6.3 percent increase over the $79 million allocated to run the schools in the year that ends on June 30.

School Committee members spent more than two hours during last week’s public hearing combing through the spending plan to ensure that priorities identified at their last regular meeting were covered in the document, specifically $177,559 to pay for a vocational program that focuses on technology and other disciplines that will prepare students for in-demand jobs and $127,000 for early education programs.

In both cases, the money for the programs was taken from the $425,000 that the committee is seeking, but has no guarantee it will receive.

To guarantee funding for these two programs, the committee transferred:

  • $137,000 from the school utilities (gas and electric) account
  • $10,000 from the superintendent’s salary account
  • $60,000 from the autism teachers account and
  • $60,000 from the classroom teachers account
  • $40,000 from the ROTC account

Committee members clarified that no teaching positions are being eliminated, rather they reduced the number of proposed additional teachers by two.

The other accounts showed historically lower spending than what was budgeted, and the superintendent’s salary account still carried Superintendent James F. Scully’s current salary of $210,000 rather than new Superintendent Margaret Marotta’s salary of $190,000.

These are the expenditures School Committee members want to make with the additional $425,000 they seek:

  • 2 teachers to help reduce class sizes, $120,000
  • 1 autism teacher, $60,000
  • Literacy coach, $60,000
  • Math specialist at Consentino School, $60,000
  • ELL teacher at Tilton School, $60,000
  • NEASC accreditation committee HHS visit $20,000
  • Literacy and science specialists for professional development, $45,000