EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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March 14, 2014

SPED, school hiring are biggest concerns

Schools working to narrow $1.3 million deficit

ANDOVER — The School Department is seeking to add almost nine full-time-equivalent positions to its ranks next year — a plan that is bringing calls for more fiscal restraint and reductions in funding.

Superintendent Marinel McGrath presented a $72,185,784 “preliminary” budget to the Finance Committee and Board of Selectmen Wednesday night — which reflects a $3.3 million, or 4.73 percent, increase over the current year’s budget of $68.9 million.

McGrath’s proposal is about $1.28 million higher than Town Manager Reginald “Buzz” Stapczynski’s allotment for the schools next year. Stapczynski budgeted $70,904,452 for the school district.

The new staff positions include teachers, as well as additions to guidance, custodial and human resources.

The current budget, as it exists today, “has the funding for level services, the strategic plan and all of the contractual obligations,” McGrath said Wednesday night. “There is no significant changes or increases. At this time, there are no reductions to programs or services.”

However, selectmen, frustrated by the possibility of more hires in a tough economic climate, voted Monday night to reduce the town manager’s budget for the schools by $400,000. The move widened the gap between McGrath and Stapczynski from $881,332 to $1,281,332.

It was matched by a similar $200,000 reduction to Stapczynski’s budget for town operations, which addressed the town manager’s plan to hire about five positions, according to selectmen Chairman Alex Vispoli.

“If you don’t hire those people, you save approximately $600,000,” Vispoli said. “Every time you can save having to hire an FTE (full-time-equivalent), you’re really providing long-term savings. The $600,000 (in reductions) is essentially saying, ‘No new FTEs this year.’”

When presented to the tri-board meeting Wednesday night, the

The School District’s proposed increase in positions from the current 882 to 890 — which includes an additional 15 positions created since taxpayers approved a budget with 867 positions at last May’s Annual Town Meeting — drew the ire of town officials at Wednesday’s tri-board meeting.

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