The School Committee, during its April 25 meeting, voted unanimously to approve its $108.1 million budget request for fiscal year 2023 and $18.8 million in capital requests through fiscal year 2027. Within this year’s budget figure, $103.6 million would be used to fund the operating budget. That amount is $9.1 million higher than last year’s figure. The remaining $4.5 million would be used for special education transportation, reflecting a decrease of $521,743.
The district is expected to receive $92.6 million from the state in Chapter 70 funding, an increase of $8.2 million over last year. In addition, the local contribution is projected to increase by $1.9 million to bring this year’s figure to $38.4 million.
In terms of expenses, salaries represent 60 percent of the budget with teacher salaries totaling $40.5 million. District administration costs have also climbed, going from $2.2 million last year to $2.5 million this year. The salaries of district-wide personnel have gone from $4.6 million last year to $5.5 million this year.
City Hall chargebacks are the second-highest expense and are expected to come in at $27.4 million, an increase of $1.1 million. The chargebacks will account for 21 percent of the budget with health and life insurance being the highest line item at $12.9 million.
On the building level, Everett High School has the largest budget – totaling $22.6 million. This figure also represents the greatest increase of any school in the district at $4.1 million.
Speaking about the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), Assistant Superintendent of Operations Charles Obremski called attention to the $3.5 million needed to make the Parlin School completely handicapped-accessible. Although the project is included in the CIP for fiscal year 2025, Obremski said Chief Financial Officer Eric Demas is pushing to have it transferred to the CIP for fiscal year 2023. “He didn’t promise anything, but he said he would do his best,” said Obremski.
Should Demas be successful, the CIP for fiscal year 2023 would increase from $6.7 million to $10.2 million.
Obremski also spoke about the $2 million that would be needed to purchase and install eight modular classrooms at the Keverian School. Although the school was originally designed for 650 students, enrollment has now climbed to 950 students; however, the classrooms would accommodate a total of 200 students with up to 30 students in each classroom. “It would alleviate a lot of the overcrowding in the Keverian School,” said Obremski. “We do need additional space, the sooner the better.”
The budgets will now be sent to the City Council for final approval.
In other news, the School Committee voted unanimously to approve a new two-year contract with The Stepping Stones Group (formerly known as Futures Education). Located in Springfield, the company specializes in providing therapeutic and behavioral health services.
Special Education Director William Donohue said the district has had a contract with Stepping Stones for the past 15 years. Mayor Carlo DeMaria asked if Donohue and his colleagues have entertained the possibility of switching companies or having district employees provide some of the services. Donohue said 13 other companies were considered during February Vacation. However, it was determined that Stepping Stones is still the best choice for Everett.
“The most important thing to me right now is to keep the current staff,” he said. “If I discontinue our contract with Futures, then I get into a 24-month No Compete with that entire staff. If we’re taking their staff, then they lose their ability to staff other districts; that’s part of the decision right there.”
School Committee Vice Chairman Michael McLaughlin asked about the possibility of negotiating a one-year contract. However, Donohue did not agree. “I think that’s a mistake, with all due respect,” he said, adding that it would take two years to bring services back in-house or to switch to a different company. “The biggest thing I’m fighting for right now is services for the kids.”
Superintendent of Schools Priya Tahiliani said the contract will be funded at $1.9 million.
The School Committee also voted unanimously to approve a new three-year contract with Eliot Community Human Services. Tahiliani said the contract will be funded at $765,000 per year, which includes a three percent increase for salary raises. She said 14 clinicians will be assigned to the district to provide services, including individual counseling, group therapy, family consultation and crisis intervention.
School Committee Member-at-Large Samantha Lambert urged her colleagues to support the contract. “Our students have struggled significantly with mental health challenges,” she said, adding that new patients must wait at least three months to be seen by a private practitioner. “The issues only get worse.”