Will Newton residents consider a waiver after school budget issues?
With a school budget shortfall of just under $2 million and the impending loss of nearly 21 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions for the 2022-23 school year, General Counsel Josh Krintzman posed a question last week. question to officials: “Are these cuts keeping students harmless?”
Responding to a joint meeting of the city council’s finance and programs and services committees, school committee chairwoman Tamika Olszewski said the $262 million budget was “enough to meet the needs of our children.” .
After:Newton’s ‘most vulnerable students’ will be hit by budget shortfall and staff cuts
Earlier, Olszewski and seven other school committee members voted to approve the school budget, with only member Paul Levy voting against.
“I don’t disagree with what President Olszewski said – that we have ‘adequate budget’ – [but] I do not necessarily equate “enough” to hold [students] harmless,” school board member Chris Brezski told Krintzman.
He and several other officials also pointed to the underfunded school maintenance budget and other structural issues that have remained unchanged for years.
General Councilor Marc Laredo, Councilor Emily Norton and others have questioned the teachers’ latest contract, fearing pay rises will increase more than income.
“Without a cash injection…you can’t continue at the pace you’re going,” Laredo told chief financial officer Maureen Lemieux. “It won’t work financially unless we start cutting schools badly.”
After:Newton Public Schools Superintendent David Fleishman resigns
General Counsel Deborah Crossley offered a way to address larger budget issues: ‘It’s time for us to go back to the constituents and ask for a waiver so we can continue to provide the services that our constituents – we know they want – at all levels, but especially for schools.
Newton residents last approved a waiver in 2013.
In response to Krintzman’s question about whether the cuts would keep students harmless, Superintendent David Fleishman, who will be leaving the district for a new job in July, said, “I think we’re deploying the resources we have from the as thoughtful as possible. ”
However, he said some positions that will be lost, such as technology staff, will impact adults and students.
Several officials were concerned about the loss/reduction of math and literacy response staff at the middle school level as they help students who have fallen behind due to the COVID pandemic.
Brezski said these interventionist positions “are exactly what ARPA [American Rescue Plan Act] funds have been designated.
Councilor Bill Humphrey also said it would be appropriate to use the money for those positions.
Earlier in the month, Mayor Ruthanne Fuller provided an additional $1.51 million in ARPA funds for the school budget. The city received $63.2 million in ARPA funds. According to Lemieux, $29.7 million has been spent so far.
If the school budget is approved as is, 33.1 FTEs will be lost: 20.9 due to budget shortfall and 12.2 due to downsizing.
The city council has a very limited role in what it can do to change the school budget.
According to Councilwoman-at-large Becky Walker Grossman, chair of the finance committee, council can make non-binding recommendations on the budget or reduce or reject the budget. Members do not have the authority to add a penny.
Council President Susan Albright said members could also continue discussions and draft a resolution to the mayor asking for more ARPA funding.
In a straw vote taken by the finance committee, two councilors voted yes on the school budget, one voted no, four abstained, and one was absent.
The budget for the 2023 financial year must be adopted by June 3.