EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

April 27, 2012

Lawrence schools payroll to top $100M

Click HERE to see the full text of Jeffrey Riley's school budget

LAWRENCE — Lawrence Public Schools' annual payroll will go over $100 million for the first time in the city's history in fiscal 2013.

A $4.8 million hike in overall salaries for the city's 2,000 School Department employees — due to step increases negotiated before the state placed the district in receivership — accounts for more than half of the $8.3 million increase in the proposed education budget for the 2013 fiscal year that begins July 1.

But pay raises aren't part of the $152-millon spending plan unveiled last night by Superintendent/Receiver Jeffrey C. Riley.

The increases reflect the school district's contractual agreements approved before the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to put the troubled school system into receivership last November. "These are the step increases that occur automatically," Riley said. "No raises have been given," he said.

Current salaries amount to more than $96 million — or two-thirds of the current school budget.

Riley was available for questioning last night in the Hall of the School Committee during a public hearing on a budget that made history for another reason — the lack of involvement by the School Committee.

Under the vote taken last year by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the committee has been stripped of its governance powers — including approval of the School Department budget.

"For the first time in Lawrence Public Schools history, salaries have gone over $100 million," said veteran School Committee member James Vittorioso after last night's meeting.

"And this is the first time in the history of the City of Lawrence that the School Committee had nothing to do with the budget," said Vittorioso, who is serving his 11th year on the committee.

Vittorioso and fellow School Committee members sat in the audience like spectators instead of participants last night. Mayor William Lantigua, who chairs the seven-member committee, was absent.

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