The Haverhill School Committee approved a $107.6 million spending plan Wednesday night for the next school year after narrowly dismissing objections over the city taking education money back.
Three similar plans were presented, all including a state education payment of $8.9 million. The state aid was bulked up last year with the passage of the Student Opportunity Act. School Committee member Richard J. Rosa led the opposition, contending the mayor is actually cutting the city’s contribution.
“This is what drives taxpayers crazy, when they find out that money is supposed to go for a certain purpose. The money is meant for a certain thing. It is to close the achievement gap for students. No, please mayor, don’t interrupt me. Don’t interrupt me. What taxpayers hate is when politicians come along, see a pot of money and think it’s a piggy bank they can use to pay other bills. The money is to benefit the schools and to benefit these students and to close the achievement gap. To do anything otherwise with it is a cut,” Rosa said.
At issue was Mayor James J. Fiorentini’s call to reduce the total by $602,000 to ostensibly offset the cost of school employee health insurance paid by the city.
“Health insurance for school department employees went up by $1.3 million. Of that, roughly half of that, $739,000 was because of the 56 positions that were added last year,” the mayor said.
Rosa countered the city is not contributing to the bottom line, but instead relying mostly on the $8.9 million in state aid. He also said it is misleading for the mayor to talk about adding jobs when there were 40 or 50 open positions at any given time.
Committee member Scott W. Wood Jr. supported the mayor, saying in the past, insurance costs were always worked into figuring the cost of hiring new employees.
Ultimately the committee voted 4-3 to accept the mayor’s proposed budget. Committee members Wood, Toni Sapienza-Donais, Maura Ryan-Ciardiello and Fiorentini in favor and Rosa, Paul A. Magliocchetti and Gail M. Sullivan opposed.