This site aims to inform and mobilize Beverly parents to take an active role in all issues related to the funding and operation of the city's schools. It was launched in the spring of 2008, when the city saw its first-ever override attempt fail, followed by the closure of a nearly-new elementary school. Subsequent years have seen further cuts that have led to larger class sizes across the district. While the opening of an impressive new high school and plans to replace the city's aging middle school give us reason to be optimistic, the school community must be ever vigilant in demanding appropriate school funding by city and state governments, and better community communications from the district and School Committee.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Budget Season Winding Down?

If all goes as planned (when has that happened, lately?), there should be a resolution to the school budget, for this year at least, by the end of the week.

The Finance Subcommittee plans to debate and vote on the budget tonight. The full City Council plans to vote tomorrow night. There first needs to be a separate vote on continuing, reducing, or eliminating the $100 trash fee. And another vote, we believe, is needed to approve the Mayor's request to transfer $680,000 from the general fund to the schools.

While these issues are all related, they are legally separate issues.

Councilor Judith Cronin, in an email to constituents, has given the best explanation we have yet heard of the specifics, and what needs to be approved when, and by whom:

The trash fee must be voted in by the City Council every year. The finance subcommittee is scheduled to vote on the budget on Wednesday, June 25 and the full City Council is scheduled to take a vote on the FY09 budget on Thursday, June 26.

Much of this year’s discussion has centered on funding for the schools and the source of this funding. The Council must decide on the school budget, including the Mayor’s recommendation to give the schools an incremental $680,000. The source of this incremental funding is related to the sanitation enterprise fund. Although the trash fee does cover a portion of sanitation expense, money from the general fund is still needed to cover the remaining expense for sanitation. Due to increased recycling efforts this year, however, the amount required to be transferred from the general fund to sanitation is less, thus creating a surplus available to the city. The Mayor has decided to dedicate a portion of this surplus to the schools.

The City Council must also decide whether to maintain the trash fee. Our current $100 trash fee does not cover all of the city’s sanitation expense. A decrease to the trash fee will require an increase in the transfer to sanitation from the general fund, resulting in less funds available to other services in the city. Elimination of the trash fee will require a reduction of approximately $1.3 million of city services.

While the vote is scheduled to happen this week, and the budget goes into effect next Tuesday, we hear there are contingency plans for more meetings next week, if things are not settled by Thursday.

All remaining meetings are at Council Chambers at City Hall, and start at 7:00 pm. BevCam (Comcast Channel 10) will carry both of this weeks meetings live, and rebroadcast the following day at noon.

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