EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


May 27, 2013

Schools' $90m budget gets initial OK

Key issues include: principal pay hikes, special ed and transportation costs, crowded classrooms

HAVERHILL — The School Committee has preliminary approved a school budget in excess of $90 million and scheduled a public hearing on the spending plan June 6.

The committee passed the School Department’s proposal 4 to 1 at Thursday’s meeting, with committee member Scott Wood voting no and Mayor James Fiorentini abstaining.

The committee is expected to take its final vote on the budget the night of the June 6 hearing, which is set for 6 p.m. at City Hall. Thursday’s vote was conditioned to allow changes to the spending plan, pending the city’s financial contribution and state aid numbers that won’t be set until the Legislature and governor finalize the state budget next month. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

Wood said he voted no because he has concerns about several large pay increases for school principals. The school budget sets aside severance pay for three retiring principals based on allowing them to cash in dozens of unused vacation days. But Wood and other committee members said they established new rules several years ago that prohibit school employees from accumulating more than 10 vacation days at any time.

Superintendent James Scully said he would research the matter and provide an answer before the budget hearing. Wood said he would likely support the school budget once the principal pay issue is resolved.

Fiorentini said he abstained from voting because the school proposal is essentially a recommendation to the mayor. He said he expects to finalize his citywide spending proposal, which is subject to review by City Council, by the end of the month.

The School Department’s preliminary spending proposal was $90,638,215, an increase of $4,367,852, or 5.06 percent, compared to this year. That proposal included $509,000 to redo and expand school bus routes, however, which Fiorentini said previously he does not support. He reiterated that position Thursday, but said he is in talks with the superintendent to reduce transportation spending.

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