As Haverhill Schools Battle Deficit, Payano Budget Amendment Offers ‘A Glimmer of Hope’

Sen. Pavel M. Payano. (WHAV News photograph.)

A possible budget amendment by state Sen. Pavel M. Payano might ease painful cuts Haverhill Public Schools face next year.

“We have a glimmer of hope,” School Committee member Paul A. Magliocchetti said at last week’s meeting. He and member Thomas Grannemann have lobbied lawmakers on Beacon Hill and organized other gateway cities grappling with deficits, as WHAV reported.

Making up for high inflation the state did not account for in recent years, Payano proposed $100 million for gateway cities last week. If approved, the “extraordinary relief” would be distributed proportional to how much public school aid each of the 26 districts receives. Payano represents Lawrence, Methuen and parts of Haverhill.

Grannemann, a retired economist, estimated Haverhill missed out on $19.2 million in total because of a flaw in the state’s formula, emphasizing that Payano’s amendment would not change the formula itself. He said of the likelihood the amendment is adopted, “The prospect of that I have no way of judging. He’s putting in a good number. Even if it goes through, it probably won’t be that high, so we’ll have to see.”

After the house budget did not bolster public school aid, Magliocchetti told WHAV they refocused their efforts on the senate, which he said resulted in Payano’s amendment.

“Dr. Grannemann is being modest because there was another proposal, but they incorporated a lot of what Dr. Grannemann had proposed, so we’re very grateful to him,” Magliocchetti said.

Another amendment, put forth by State Sen. Michael O. Moore, asks for a sum of $217 million to tackle the same problem, though he does not specify how much each school district might receive. There are nine other proposals related to money for schools, though none of the rest offer solutions for the coming year. According to Grannemann, some aim to adjust the state formula so infusions can keep pace with high inflation in the future, while others call for study groups to look into how aid is calculated.

In March, the Haverhill superintendent informed School Committee members of the $11.1 million deficit. This month, as WHAV reported, the district mostly avoided layoffs in the $126.6 million budget they presented to members. The draft is still awaiting final approval. Still, Superintendent Margaret Marotta said “there will be an impact on our classrooms” from program cuts, reduced supplies, positions left unfilled and staff shuffled around.

She said next year’s budget season will be even harder because she and her staff made the least painful cuts this time around.

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