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Transportation costs rise, but new funding helps with new positions for schools

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~ Ways & Means Subcommittee Budget Hearings ~

  Ballooning transportation costs was the biggest area of concern for city councillors when Superintendent of Schools Dr. Dianne Kelly presented the School Department budget to the Ways and Means Subcommittee last week.

  Over the past two weeks, the City Council subcommittee has been hearing from every department in preparation for a final vote on Mayor Brian Arrigo’s proposed FY23 $240 million operating budget. The school budget is the biggest chunk of the overall budget, with the Revere School Department figuring coming in at about $108 million.

  While the rising transportation costs have been an issue for districts across the state, Kelly pointed to a number of positives in the FY23 budget. “One of the things that have been helpful to the School Department is the Student Opportunity Act, and for the second year in a row, that has put us in a relatively stable place financially, along with pandemic stimulus funds,” said Kelly. “It’s really been a game-changer for us over the past couple of years, and we’ve been able to use the money to right-size our staff, because we have been understaffed for a very long time.”

  The additional funds have also allowed the School Department to upgrade its technology, provide appropriate supplemental services for its students and purchase new instructional tools.

  “We’re very excited for the coming school year,” said Kelly. “Our major additions for this year’s budget include increases in our staffing for English language learners.”

  The School Department is also reintroducing two new positions that have not been in the district for a number of years – a fine arts director and a comprehensive health and wellness director. “We have also added a number of interventionist teachers who will be providing tier 1 support for students who are struggling to get up to grade level academically,” said Kelly.

  The biggest swing in the budget was with transportation, a trend that Kelly said has been ongoing for the past several years. Kelly said the increases are not unique to Revere and are due in part to lower staff levels and a lack of competition among transportation companies. Kelly said the School Department is working with the City of Revere and its Finance Director, Richard Viscay, to help address issues with the transportation budget.

  City Council President Gerry Visconti said he understands the city is responsible to pay for the transportation costs, but noted that the costs are about $2.5 million over budget. “My problem is it affects quite a bit of residents and homeowners who do not have kids in the school system,” said Visconti.

  Visconti asked if there is a way more federal pandemic relief funds could be used to help cover some of those transportation costs. Kelly said the School Department is allowed to use some of that funding to address the transportation costs. She also pointed to other steps the schools have taken, including switching to small buses rather than vans to transport special needs students in the district. Kelly said that move alone saved nearly $500,000.

  Ward 4 Councillor Patrick Keefe asked if the district would look into an internal transportation system, rather than contracting out most of the service. Kelly said the schools looked into that five or six years ago and the costs were prohibitive. However, she said, with rising costs, the district would continue to look at all options.

  Keefe said the schools could possibly use some of the pandemic relief funds to help with startup costs. “I’d like to think we could operate a small city transportation department,” he said.

Gerry Visconti
City Council President

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