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Mayor calls for final transfer to end School Department budget woes

By Brendan Clogston

 

The mayor has asked to City Council to make one last transfer – this time for $500,000 – from the city’s stabilization fund to the School Department, allowing extracurricular activities to go on, preventing layoffs and providing what officials believe to be the last remedy required for the fiscal year’s months-long school budget crisis. “This transfer will allow all ongoing and upcoming extracurricular activities to proceed through the end of the current school year, including but not limited to the planned high school marching band trip to Washington, D.C.,” said Mayor Carlo DeMaria in a message to the council. “This funding will also allow all school employees to work until the end of the school year and will ensure that the special needs of our students are met.”

The transfer was sent for review at the City Council’s next Ways & Means Committee meeting on March 19, with City of Everett CFO Eric Demas and representatives from the School Department and the Mayor’s Office invited to attend.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that the school budget was struggling to meet a $9 million dollar shortfall caused by a number of factors, including a major change in how the state calculates how much aid to provide cities to feed students from poor families, and a number of unforeseen expenses thrust upon the school district over the course of the school year. Other factors, such as Medicaid chargebacks, were disputed between the City of Everett and the School Department.

In February, Mayor DeMaria received approval from the City Council to transfer $5 million from the city’s stabilization fund to offset the schools’ budget shortfall. Superintendent of Schools Fred Foresteire asked Mayor DeMaria to increase that figure to $7 million to include those funds the schools felt were owed to them. The mayor and his administrators insisted; however, that to give any more than was proposed could jeopardize the city’s credit rating.

The schools were ultimately able to apply funds from a number of revolving funds to offset the remaining difference, but a spending freeze on all “non-essential spending” put into place to help meet the gap would cancel a number of school trips, including the marching band’s trip to the capitol. This transfer, should the council approve it, will fully fund those trips.

“The Mayor doesn’t want to see [the students] not go [on their trips], and he doesn’t want to see any layoffs,” said Superintendent Foresteire, “so he’s said that the rest of the money that he owed us he was going to give us.”

Meanwhile, city and school officials are collaborating in the development of the FY 2019 budget, with all involved keen to avoid the crises and disputes of the waning budget cycle. Mayor DeMaria has promised that the new budget “will not include midyear requests to [the council].” “Our School Finance Task Force has been meeting regularly, and I look forward to continuing to work with the School Committee, City Council and staff to meet the fiscal needs through careful planning and budgeting,” said Mayor DeMaria.

According to the state, the city’s Net School Spending figure, or the minimum amount the city is required by the Commonwealth to spend on education, will be $95,255,826 for FY 19.

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