School Committee Delays Approval of $88 Million Budget, Citing Too Little Time to Study

Haverhill School Superintendent Margaret Marotta. (WHAV News file photograph.)

While there was general praise of next year’s proposed school spending plan, Haverhill School Committee members concluded last night there just wasn’t enough time to review it.

Members decided to take up the $88 million school budget again next Wednesday night and have a public hearing Thursday, June 13. School Committee member Scott W. Wood Jr. led the discussion, saying he would have been forced to oppose the plan if a vote was taken.

“It’s not that I’m against the budget. I just don’t know all of the details and $88 million is a lot of money,” Wood said.

Chairman Sven A. Amirian argued he saw the Committee’s immediate task limited to settling the total—up $4.8 million from last year. Individual items, he noted, could still be changed at any time. Members Paul A. Magliocchetti and Richard J. Rosa reiterated what they told WHAV yesterday. They were satisfied with budget drafts they requested and received in advance. The official proposal though wasn’t sent to members until five hours before the meeting. Member Gail M. Sullivan, however, agreed that wasn’t enough time.

“We haven’t had sufficient time to look at the details in this budget,” Sullivan said.

Wood said certain items he caught during his limited review of the 53-page document included the original, lower salary for the next assistant superintendent. The Committee recently agreed to raise the amount to up to $165,000 annually to attract better candidates. Member Maura Ryan Ciardiello acknowledged, in her words, “There are some great things in here,” but said the body needed to delve deeper into it.

School Superintendent Margaret Marotta expressed regret for the tight timing. “It wasn’t posted or sent to the Committee, and clearly, as the superintendent, that’s my responsibility so I apologize for that and I take responsibility.”

Marotta provided a general overview of the proposed budget. She explained her approach was to develop a “needs-based” plan that follows students rather than simply adding dollars to the bottom line. Free breakfast and lunches and free kindergarten is covered.

An analysis by Rosa suggested that while the total is up almost $5 million, more than $3 million of that amount simply covers increases in existing salaries and services. Only $1.7 million, he said, is available for added programs.

Although he was at a conference, Mayor James J. Fiorentini told WHAV by telephone he will spend roughly half of the city’s current $10 million surplus to balance the city and school budgets.

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