EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Haverhill

November 27, 2013

Fiorentini: 'Painful cuts' will be needed

Review shows shortage of busing, special ed money

HAVERHILL — The School Department is still struggling to balance its budget, and the mayor said “painful cuts in personnel” are needed for that to happen.

It remains to be seen how student services will be affected by the cuts, which are necessary after a private auditing firm discovered problems with the budget.

Superintendent James Scully said the district is projecting a shortfall of around $500,000 for the fiscal year that ends June 30, according to a financial review by the Melanson Heath & Company firm of Andover.

Mayor James Fiorentini said the shortfall is actually much greater, but that it will be trimmed to about $500,000 if City Council approves more money for schools that he will propose at Tuesday’s council meeting. The mayor said he will recommend that $250,000 in state money the. city has been holding be used to reduce the school deficit, as well as another $89,000 in federal Medicaid reimbursement money.

The mayor said Scully has already made about $750,000 in spending cuts since the start of the school year.

“The fact we passed a budget that was nearly $2 million short of what we needed is a big concern,” Fiorentini said. “But the good news is we hired a company that uncovered the shortfall early enough that we have plenty of time to fix it.”

Fiorentini, who is also chairman of the School Committee, said he expects schools will have to make “painful cuts in personnel” to trim another $500,000 or more from the school budget.

“There is no magic wand we can wave or grant we are going to find to fix a shortfall of this size,” the mayor said.

The schools hired the Melanson firm as a condition for the mayor and City Council agreeing last summer to give the schools an additional $1.35 million to plug a budget shortfall that school officials said was caused by an unexpected overrun in special education spending.

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