Fiscal Year 2007 Budget Process Updates

February 24: "Senior Preference" favor to help with understaffing at High School. What was once called Open Campus is now advocated for Seniors at Marblehead High School because, in the opinion of the popular and highly successful Principal Marilyn Hurwitz, the 87 teachers cannot adequately supervize the 1008 students. It's not that the high school is at maximum capacity, that's 1500 students, rather it's the staffing that's overtaxed. Also, a shortage of curriculum directors is threatening the school's accreditation. The planned-to-hire positions were left unfilled in FY 2006, the current fiscal year, because of money problems confronting the Town at large. According to the Lynn Item, Hurwitz said that study halls are now conducted in classrooms in Senior's second semester, when they should be taking electives. No resolution was forcoming at the time of this article. The Superintendent seemed to be sympathic.

February 9: [The Reporter] School Budget begins at 25,916,515. That's the Superintendent proposed FY2007 budget for the Marblehead Schools. State aid and other non-Town money make up only $1,446,133 of the total. The other $24,391,796 come from Town appropriations at Annual Town Meeting. These numbers represent a 6.3 percent increase ($1,446,133) from the current budget year. Superintendent Devaux acknowledging that "everyone needs a breather," hopes to encourage Town Meeting to approve the increased funding without an override. He described the proposed budget as "level-funded" with changes generally allowed by the Finance Committee guidelines: a new kindergarten and the elimination of one first grade classroom. He is also hoping for a $300,000 increase in general state aid. The Town Adminstrator and the Town Finance Director have proposed a lower number for the schools, $23,776,663. That's $615,133 less than the Superintendent's budget, and according to the Superintendent is the main area of disagreement. The "town side" estimate is based on "no increase in state aid." Devaux stated that unavoidables like contractual obligations, plus an offer to finalize the new school contracts, increases in heating and other utilities costs account for most of the increase. One of the proposals being discussed is to cut the hours of 35 to 40 school employees working 20 to 24 hours per week to 19 hours per week, making them ineligible for health insurance and other benefits. This idea, which has come up many times before, will result in many of the current personnel in this category leaving their positions and the search for qualified replacements made much more difficult, as discovered in other communities which have tried it. Obviously, in addition to being dedicated to education, these in-classroom assistants to teachers, many of whom are qualified educators who can't work fulltime, value the healthcare benefit as much as the salary. Some view this proposal as very shortsighted, especially when the educational needs of the students are put first, ahead of politics and perennial calls for reducing services (often referred to as "no new taxes") The School Committee is set to discuss the budget on February 16, March 2, 16, and 30, and on April 6 and 27. There will be a joint meeting with the Finance Committee on March 14, and a public hearing on the budgets will be held on April 6. Annual Town Meeting is always the first Monday in May, this year that falls on May 2.

January 24: $223,000 out in the cold for Marblehead Public Schools. Even as the echoes of Town official's conviction that no general overrides will be need this budget year was still reverberating, the schools are facing an unavoidable overrun in the most basic of services: keeping the students warm. Despite thermostats at an all-time low and lights off all over the place almost a quarter of a million dollars has been drained from an over-stressed budget to pay the oil-heating, gas-proving pipers. David Keniston, School Business Manager, said that the schools are "doing the very best" they can. It's been a mild winter, weatherwise, but a savage one for rapacious increases in heating fuel costs. Conservation efforts have netted a $90,ooo decrease in the budget overrun, Keniston said before the School Committee.

While the state will most likely help some of the larger/poorer school districts in the Commonwealth, it is unlikely that the state will believe the poor-mouthing pleas of Marblehead town officials who govern a town with one of the highest per capita income levels in the Commonwealth, one of the lowest tax rates, and some of the lowest paid employees in the state.

January 18: Town officials pronounce, "No general override." Without contracts completed and long before the budget process is completed, Selectmen and other Town Officials [as reported in the Daily Item] are reaffirming their opinion that no general override is needed. However there will be the usual batch of debt exclusions override ... and the general population doesn't really notice any difference anyway, with debt exclusions coming fast and furious every year. If you talk to police, fire, publicschool and municipal employees and say that Town Officials are saying we don't need any extra money for next year (FY2007) you will get a look of deblief... and then something else, if you're foolish enough to hang around.

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