Committee Approves $89 Million Haverhill School Spending Plan; Tweaks Still to Come

Haverhill School Committee. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Haverhill schools will share $89 million during the year that begins July 1, but changes within the budget will come in June or July.

Haverhill School Committee members unanimously approved the spending plan—up nearly $5 million from the current year. Totals for individual schools are likely to change, however, when reorganization of St. James, Greenleaf, Crowell and Bartlett Schools takes place. Superintendent Margaret Marotta explains computers, for example, will follow students to their new classrooms

“Since we’re just moving the students—we’re not actually gaining more students—the devices will travel with the students,” she said.

The question came when School Committee member Scott W. Wood Jr. noted Bradford Elementary School is gaining 140 students, but that its budget appeared to be dropping.

Members also received a commitment from Mayor James J. Fiorentini that any extra money coming from the state would go back into the schools. The mayor qualified that pledge, saying, “As long as the Council and the School Committee hold firm that this is all the city can contribute.”

School Committee member Paul A. Magliocchetti questioned why only about $600,000 is being set aside for maintenance. He noted Facilities Supervisor Heather R. Forgione estimates another $1 million is needed. Business Manager Brian O’Connell told him “repairs are not totally predictable” and that extra state money may offset expenses. As an example, he cited the Massachusetts School Building Authority has agreed to pay for replacement of the Moody School roof. O’Connell conceded, however, “it is a risk.”

“It is an ongoing albatross around the neck of the school district and it is going to need to be addressed year to year at some significant point,” he said.

Fiorentini said individual repairs in excess of $100,000 will be borne by the city and not the schools.

Wood raised most of the questions during the discussion. In one case, he questioned why costs for sending special education students to out-of-town schools is increasing. O’Connell responded that six students, for example, have particular needs that can be met only by a program that costs $247,000 a year. Wood asked the administration to identify ways to serve more students within the district.

Another item that could change are the amounts the schools pay substitute teachers. Member Gail M. Sullivan said certified teachers should be paid at least $125 a day.

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