By Barbara Taormina
The Finance Committee is in the process of reviewing each city department’s proposed 2019 budget, and this week members took a look at the numbers for city schools. This year the School Committee has proposed a $71,499,117 budget, roughly a 3 percent increase over last year’s budget of $69,218,947. This year’s budget is described as a level-services plan that avoids any cuts to teachers and staff and focuses new resources on special education and social-emotional supports for students.
“Social-emotional support is a priority in this budget as we experience more needs for our students with a level of acuity that continues to witness younger children requiring higher levels of psychological services,” said Superintendent of Schools John Oteri in an introduction to the budget which is available on the city website.
“Our counseling staff is overwhelmed with the volume and complexity of the emotional challenges, often the result of prior trauma that plague our students. In order to keep our students in school and emotionally healthy, it is a need to have additional social-emotional support in our schools,” explained Oteri.
In addition to 19 adjustment counselors, the district will work with a local agency to address student needs.
Local taxpayers will contribute $22,151,348 to the cost of running city schools. The remaining $49,297,769 will be covered by Chapter 70 state educational aid. The district will also receive an additional $7.9 million in state and federal grants.
The proposed budget increases spending for special education programs and services by about $314,000. Despite the small increase, special education still represents about 36 percent of the total school budget.
According to Oteri, in-district programs have allowed many special education students to remain in city schools with their peers. “We will continue to expand these programmatic offerings, and, in some instances, we hope to be able to accept students from other districts,” he said.
Other highlights from the 2019 budget proposal include $2.8 million for 37 teachers for English language learners, $749,767 for nine school nurses, $122,409 for one nursing supervisor, $90,369 for the union president, $82,405 for an attendance supervisor and $25,000 for bus monitors. School sports programs are slated to receive $532,922 or about 1 percent of the total budget while $2.3 million or about 3 percent of the budget will be used for supplies and operational materials.