Granted nearly $1 million below its budget request by the Warrant Committee, the School Department is considering the equivalent of 14 layoffs, with several classroom teachers among the reductions.
Despite reservations by School Committee member Lynda Lee Sheridan, the committee voted unanimously Wednesday to approve the cuts if more funding cannot be found by the beginning of the new fiscal year.
In the order of highest priority to restore to the budget to the lowest, the cuts consist of:
*one full-time high school history teacher
*a 70 percent time health/physical education middle school teacher
*a 40 percent time high school business teacher
*an 80 percent time high school Spanish teacher
*a half-time position worth of reduction of specialists and related services
*a full-time custodian
*three administrative/non-teaching personnel
*another full-time custodian
*reduction of education assistants from full-time to part-time
*school fee increases
*additional charges to community schools
*reduction of a 20 percent time residency coordinator
*eliminating a full-time librarian aide at an elementary school
School Committee member Leroy Walker said he was pleased that the leadership was able to avoid cuts in art, music, and athletics programs.
The School Department’s budget request of $38,379,680 is an increase of about $3 million, or 8.4 percent over last year’s budget $35,412,344. The Warrant Committee granted half of the increase on Jan. 23, then a few weeks later recommended a total budget of $36,955,499 with an additional $440,000 from year-end free cash.
That is a total of $37,395,499, roughly $1 million below the department’s request.
Apart from contractual obligations, which include mandated costs for special education, transportation expenses, facilities expenses and technology costs, budget drivers fell into three areas, according to Assistant Superintendent John Phelan.
Those areas were early literacy from kindergarten to third grade, working to close the proficiency gap between wealthier and poorer students, and advancing science, technology, engineering, and math (known together as STEM) education.
At Wednesday’s meeting, the School Committee further voted to retroactively increase Superintendent Mary Gormley’s salary by three percent and to offer Phelan a $5,000 stipend for the extra duties he assumed following the departure of Assistant Superintendent Matthew Gillis in February.
“All of us thought this increase was reasonable and appropriate,” Walker said, commenting that the discussion of Gormley in executive session had been universally positive.
Kristan Bagley Jones added that Phelan had done outstanding work, as well, filling the roles of two assistant superintendents.
Sheridan said she was concerned that the custodians were so low on the replacement list and thought one of them should be moved up higher. The committee had an obligation to taking care of the physical school buildings, she said.
Walker disagreed, saying he thought that classroom teachers should be restored first. He added that the custodian to square foot ratio Milton would maintain would still be comparable to other districts.
Sheridan ultimately voted for the cuts unchanged, along with all of the other committee members.
In order to restore the five teacher positions, the committee would need to find $235,000, and it would need a further $80,000 for each custodian, according to Phelan.