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The 2024 Fiscal Year

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Finance Committee launches its annual budget review next week as preparation for Annual Town Meeting begins

  The Finance Committee is set to begin its department-by-department review of the 2024 Fiscal Year budget next Wednesday (March 15), leading off with the biggest one – the Saugus Public Schools operational budget.

  School Committee members and other officials – minus Superintendent Erin McMahon, who is on paid administrative leave – will argue the merits of a $31.6 million spending plan, which is about $1.2 million lower than what McMahon requested back in January. But the proposed budget passed unanimously by the School Committee is still close to $1 million more than what Town Manager Scott C. Crabtree has recommended. Crabtree said his proposed education budget is an increase of $500,000 over the Fiscal Year 2023 budget passed by the Annual Town Meeting last spring. Finance Committee members will begin their review of the proposed School Department budget at 7 p.m. in the first floor conference room at Saugus Town Hall.

  “The increase does not include the indirect costs paid by the Town on behalf of the School Department and included as part of the total Net School Spending (NSS) calculation required by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE),” Crabtree said in his budget message.

  When the School Committee passed its budget last month, Committee Chair Vincent Serino characterized it as “a need-based budget – not a want-based budget.”

  “The budget is what we need to start the year next year,” Serino said.

  “We don’t want to cash checks that we don’t have the money for,” he said.

  The issue of whether the town is adequately funding the operation of the schools often comes up when the Finance Committee reviews the budget for Saugus Public Schools. Town officials often argue that there are millions of dollars of hidden costs of public education, especially health benefits and maintenance of public school buildings.

  The Finance Committee is set to review the Police and Fire Department and other public safety budgets when it meets for its March 22 meeting. The committee will meet on most Wednesdays, leading up to the Annual Town Meeting, which is set for the first Monday in May.

  The major responsibility of the 50-member Town Meeting body is to approve the town’s annual budget.

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