Haverhill School Committee Advances $91.6 Million‘Needs-Based’ Spending Plan

Haverhill School Superintendent Margaret Marotta presents the proposed budget during a virtual meeting.

The Haverhill School Committee got its first look Monday at the administration’s proposed $91.6 million education budget.

Because the state has yet to make clear what cities in the Commonwealth can expect to receive in Chapter 70 education money next year, the administration is assuming level funding from the state and planned accordingly. School Superintendent Margaret Marotta says the budget looks at the big picture and doesn’t merely add a percentage, for example.

“We are continuing to use a needs-based budget. We feel that student-based budgeting and starting from zero every year, looking at what our kids need and what our schools need, so we have to kind of pull it all back every year and we have to be nimble. So, we’re trying to base a budget based on the needs that we have as a school district,” she explains.

The budget for the 2020 school year, which ends next week, was based on a cost of about $13,400 per student or just over $90 million. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the hope was the budget for the upcoming school year would be closer to just under $94.5 million. However, now that state cuts are virtually inevitable, there was concern there would need to be cuts and freezes in personnel. Assistant Superintendent Michael Pfifferling tells the Committee that because of extra money committed by the city and strategic budget cuts, he doesn’t think that will be necessary.

“We were at about $460,000 a couple of weeks ago and we’ve got that number down to $77,000 so the reality is the likelihood of us freezing any positions is very low. I’ll feel confident in saying that we will probably not have to freeze any positions,” he says.

From this point, the administration presents the budget to the City Council. On Thursday, there is a public hearing beginning at 6 p.m., which will be broadcast live on 97.9 WHAV FM as a public service. After that, the School Committee has another opportunity to ask questions and make suggestions. On Monday, June 29, the board takes a final vote on the budget and then the City Council votes Tuesday.

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