NORTH ANDOVER — The School Committee voted unanimously last night to approve Superintendent Kevin Hutchinson’s recommended budget of $39,863,136, a 4.12 percent increase over last year’s amount.
The committee may clash with Town Manager Andrew Maylor, because he has indicated he will support a 3.75 percent increase for all departments. Maylor is expected to release his proposed budget Feb. 25.
The School Committee’s budget for the fiscal year that will start July 1 exceeds what Maylor is widely expected to recommend by $142,630. The budget approved last night includes funding for the elementary schools’ librarian/media specialist, but Hutchinson put that job on a list of possible reductions if the committee stays within the 3.75 percent limit.
“It’s very upsetting to me that she’s on the chopping block,” said Natalie Howard, one of several parents who spoke on behalf of keeping Lori Stalteri, the librarian/media specialist for the elementary schools, in her job.
“We moved here because of the community and the schools,” said Jody Delnickas. Letting Stalteri’s position vanish would be “a gigantic step backward,” she said.
Delnickas also said studies have show there is a correlation between strong academic achievement and having a well-stocked and well-run library.
Robin Dunn, one of many parents who volunteers at the Sargent School library, said the students love using the library.
“I see the passion from these kids,” she said.
School Committee members indicated they will likely advocate to keep the elementary schools librarian, whom parents have credited with teaching students research skills and supplying the libraries with good books.
“We are here to fight for your librarian,” said School Committee member Christine Allen.
“I think it’s a reasonable number. I don’t think it’s outrageous,” School Committee Chairwoman Laurie Burzlaff said of the budget.
While the librarian position survived, funding for the high school drama program did not fare as well. The budget approved last night includes about $9,000 for theater, but that will not cover all the costs of the program, according to Linda Curtin, adviser to the North Andover High School Drama Guild.
She estimated it takes about $50,000 to run the Drama Guild. Curtin said Drama Guild members will probably have to do 26 fundraisers each year to keep the program going.
“Our kids are stretched to the limit,” she said.
Allen said if the schools are able to obtain additional money, it should go to the drama program.
The final word on spending for schools and all other town departments rests with the voters who attend the annual Town Meeting on May 21.