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Merrimack Valley

March 27, 2013

Methuen school budget process gets under way

Committee approves first step, objectives

METHUEN — School Committee members gave their approval to a list of more than two dozen objectives for the upcoming budget.

Superintendent Judith Scannell listed 27 objectives, many of which are already underway, for the school system to achieve in its 2014 budget. She also included a schedule that would present a budget proposal on April 22 and holding public hearings May 16 and May 28. The committee did not vote, but all said in separate comments that they agreed with the outline.

“The list is pretty comprehensive,” said committee member Mary Jean Fawcett. “I went down list and said, ‘Well there’s nothing I don’t agree with.’”

The priorities include continuing to offer athletics and extracurricular activities, bus transportation and kindergarten to students without fees, increasing tutors in the grammar schools, expanding iPad use in the classroom, looking into in-district programs for students who travel out of the district for certain services, creating a dean of students position for each grammar school, creating director of instruction technology and director of language acquisition positions, and creating a strategy to better inform parents of transportation issues.

“I think we’re doing most of them now anyway,” said committee member Barbara Grondine. “Considering the budget and what we have to work with, I think most of this has been accomplished already.”

Scannell said she thought the budget process should be smooth this year, after members of the School Committee and City Council agreed to a template list of charges that had been a contentious issue in years past.

Last year, the School Committee and the City Council went back and forth on certain charges the city bills to the schools, with School Committee members challenging the city’s figures when finalizing the budget. At issue in particular was roughly $750,000 the city demanded be cut from the school budget after state aid and spending numbers changed. The School Committee voted to cut funding for school resource officers and for city maintenance of school fields and grounds rather than reduce classroom staff.

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