HAVERHILL — The proposed school budget of $88,856,526 exceeds the amount approved last year by 5.7%.
Everyone who spoke at Thursday evening's budget hearing before the School Committee, however, said Haverhill needs to spend more on education.
Veteran School Committee member Paul Magliocchetti pointed out that while the city's per pupil spending has annually increased, the gap between Haverhill and the state average for per pupil spending has widened.
Several parents said teachers are leaving the Haverhill schools because they are not adequately paid.
Anthony Parolisi, a Consentino Middle School social studies teacher who is also the father of a Haverhill High student, said the schools have fallen behind in a number of ways. For example, "we used to have band directors at every middle school," he noted.
That has not been the case for years.
"We're begging you to increase this budget," Parolisi said.
Tim Briggs, a Hunking Middle School teacher, spoke of a "reality gap." Many people in positions of power, he said, don't know what it's like to attend school in the 21st century.
"It's different," he said. "We went to school at a different time." Briggs mentioned a Long Island superintendent who makes it a point to shadow a student in each grade. This keeps him in touch with what's going on in his district, he said.
Briggs suggested the School Committee members consider this practice.
Magliocchetti said he agreed that the city should spend more on education.
"It's nowhere near what it should be," he said of per pupil spending. He estimated the current figure is $12,000 to $13,000 per pupil.
It should be $18,000, he said. Spending more on education, he said, will make Haverhill more attractive to companies that are looking for places to expand as well as people who are looking for a place to live.
School Committee member Richard Rosa pointed out more students are enrolling in the city's schools. That puts more pressure on the budget, he noted.
Mayor James Fiorentini, chairman of the School Committee, said he and other municipal leaders have urged the Legislature to change the formula for aid to local school districts so that "gateway" cities such as Haverhill get more help from the state.
The School Committee has already approved the budget for the next fiscal year, which will begin July 1. The spending plan still needs the approval of the City Council to take effect.
The committee interviewed two applicants for the position of assistant superintendent for finance and operations: Ian Gosselin, business administrator for the Methuen schools; and Michael Pfifferling, Wakefield school business administrator.
The third finalist, Peter Gray, finance director for the Natick schools, withdrew. The position has been vacant since the start of the academic year.
School Committee member Gail Sullivan asked Gosselin about the large shortfall in the Methuen school budget. Gosselin said he told the superintendent at that time, Judith Scannell, that "I felt there was no way we could live within the budget."
His warnings, he said, went unheeded. The current Methuen school chief, Brandi Kwong, "has let me do my job," he said.
School Committee member Sven Amirian asked him why he wants to leave Methuen.
"I am looking to move up," he said.
Michael Pfifferling, who has overseen Wakefield school finances for the past seven years, said he does not aspire to be a superintendent.
"It's a pretty thankless job," he said. A 1989 Haverhill High School graduate who lives in Groveland, he said he would like to have a job closer to his home.
If he gets the job in Haverhill, Pfifferling said he will not be a numbers cruncher cooped up in his office. He said we wants to "meet the stakeholders." He also said he intends to hold the job for five years or more.
"I am not a jumper," he said.
The School Committee will vote on which applicant to hire Tuesday.