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Beverly schools facing layoffs

Posted by Marcia Dick  June 29, 2010 10:05 AM

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Beverly’s schools will face sharp cuts and all departments will be under tight spending constraints according to an approximately $98 million fiscal 2011 budget the city was finalizing this week.

The plan, which was approved by the City Council Monday night, will increase spending by just $320,000 — or .3 percent — in a year the city also is facing a cut in state aid and am increase in health insurance and other costs

According to Mayor William F. Scanlon Jr., the lean budget avoids layoffs on the city side, but essentially level-funds most departments and calls for reducing about six jobs through attrition. Cuts are steeper on the school side, and include classroom teachers and several administrators.

The $44.6 million budget approved by the School Committee calls for a $674,000 — or .15 percent increase — over the current year. But to reach that figure set by the mayor, the committee had to slice $2.4 million from its original level-services budget.

The high school and the combined elementary schools will each lose three classroom teachers. The high school also is cutting a career and guidance counselor, a part-time language teacher, a part-time physical education teacher, and an aide, while the elementary schools are cutting five aides and a team of specialty teachers that includes a physical education teacher, an art teacher, and a music teacher. The middle school is set to lose two special education teachers, 1.6 reading teachers, and a technology teacher.

Districtwide job cuts would include the assistant business manager, the sixth to 12th grade foreign language coordinator, two kindergarten to sixth grade consultants, a speech therapist, and two central office clerks. The hours of the school nurse leader and the district tradesman have been reduced. The hours of cafeteria workers, along with bus drivers and monitors, were reduced to fewer than the 20 per week they need to receive health insurance through the city.

The budget also increases from 1 1/2 miles to 2 miles the distance students would have to live from school to qualify for free bus transportation, and includes a 2 percent tuition increase for the preschool and elementary enrichment programs.

‘‘Programs are going to be cut and class sizes will go up,’’ said Marie E. Galinski, who is set to became the city’s new school superintendent effective July 1. She had formerly been assistant superintendent.

But Scanlon noted that the city’s contribution to the school budget is up $1.05 million, which he said meets a commitment he made three years ago when the city proceeded with the high school building project to provide the schools with about $1 million more per year. He said the overall school budget increase is smaller because of a drop in state school aid.

‘‘I think the money I gave to the schools is fair,’’ he said.

Scanlon also noted that the school department exhausted its reserves this fiscal year. ‘‘Since most of those expenses were for people, they were carrying more people than they could continue to carry having exhausted those reserves.’’

John Dunn, the city’s budget director, said fiscal 2011, which begins today, 7/1 looks to be the most difficult in what have been a string of challenging years. ‘‘And next year [fiscal 2012] looks to be more difficult,’’ he said.

‘‘For the past five years, state aid has either decreased or been flat,’’ Dunn said. ‘‘So when that is flat or and by any means not keeping up with inflation, something has to give.’’

For fiscal 2011, the city budgeted for a 4 percent drop in state aid, or about $600,000.

Adding to the problem, Dunn said, is that in the current economic climate, new growth revenues — the added property taxes the city receives from development — have been stagnant or declining in recent years. The city is projecting $850,000, about the same as this year.

Income from non-property tax sources such as permit fees and auto excise taxes also have been flat.

In one bright spot, Beverly is anticipating $410,000 in new revenues from its adoption of a local .75 percent meals tax earlier this year, and $30,000 from passing an increase in its local hotel/motel tax.

Scanlon said without that new income, ‘‘We would have had to eliminate another eight or nine jobs’’ on the city side, which he said would have meant layoffs.

The budget had to absorb a $1.3 million — or 11 percent — jump in employee health insurance costs and a $350,000 — 5 percent — increase in pension costs. The budget also had to cover contracted increases for most unions, an added cost of $350,000 in non-school departments alone.

In addition to the jobs reduced through attrition, the non-school budget cuts funding for a number of discretionary items, including for consultants and equipment purchases, according to Dunn.

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