EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


June 27, 2013

Schools ask for $1.4M bailout

Mayor calls for audit of education budget


Scully said 14 special education students have moved to Haverhill since the school year began in September — the largest number of mid-year move-ins that anyone can remember, he said. The cost of providing school services for the 14 students has been nearly $1.3 million — money that was not budgeted because the students moved here during the school year, Scully said.

Under state law, public school districts must provide whatever staff and other resources are required to educate students with learning and physical disabilities.

At the June 7 meeting, School Committee members and the mayor said they were disappointed the school administration was not prepared to act that night.

“Why don’t we have a plan to solve this here tonight?” Fiorentini asked Scully at that meeting. “This is unacceptable not to have a plan.”

Others joined the mayor in pressing Scully for an immediate solution.

“I don’t want us to have to call an emergency meeting with five days left in the fiscal year and have to go to the mayor asking for the city to bail us out,” committee member Scott Wood said.

“I’d like to see an immediate cost-cutting plan,” committee President Paul Magliocchetti said.

At that meeting, Scully said he hoped the special education deficit could be reduced during the final weeks of the fiscal year using money left over in other accounts. Instead, the deficit grew and the problem worsened.

Since then, the special education shortfall increased by $450,000 and school officials identified a $250,000 shortfall in the tuition-based full-day kindergarten program, Scully said. The kindergarten program is subsidized by the state, but families also pay tuition based on income. The district projected $600,000 in revenue, but more families than expected qualified for free or discounted tuition, Scully said.

“There is no room for excuses or blame,” the superintendent said in June 25 memo to the School Committee. “These serious circumstances have resulted in a freeze on all accounts and hiring of staff, with the exception of classroom teachers.”

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