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, January 27, 2010

Early Word on FY11 Budget Not Pretty

Today's Salem News details the city's Financial Forcasting Committee report, which was released last week, and shows a $3.75 million budget gap for the overall city budget for the next fiscal year. The report also shows projected deficits of $5.75 million by 2013.

The story doesn't mention the schools' share of this gap, but the report itself, which is available on the city's website (see page 18), suggests that a substantial part of the gap, and and resultant cuts we assume, may fall on the schools. The report shows the schools' forecast for FY11 at $2.6 million dollars, or 5.9%, over the appropriated budget.

According to the News' story:

"This forecast requires significant policy decisions to reduce spending," the report says. "In other words, a plan to allow for community input and participation to determine service reductions most likely in combination with new revenue decisions."

The report lists a variety of options to close the gaps, from cutting services to negotiating a reduction in employee raises to adopting the local option meals tax....

...Steve Cohen, one of the citizen representatives on the forecasting committee, said the city should focus "not just on cuts but on expanding revenue."

"It will take some guts and hard work, but it will pay off far more than impoverishing the community with cuts in education and services," he told the City Council.

None of this should come as a complete surprise to anyone who followed the 2008 budget crisis, high school project negotiations, or recent city elections; or read earlier forecasts which predicted numbers in this range more than two years ago.

While tomorrow night's State of the Schools (now titled An Evening of Accomplishments) has been rebranded to accentuate the positive, and not focus as much on preliminary budget numbers, Superintendent Hayes said he'll do his best to provide a preliminary financial outlook.

A story in yesterday's Salem News explains' the change in focus of the annual presentation.

... in today's economy, most people are aware of the decline in state funding each year, and the concrete numbers that determine program cuts and layoffs usually aren't available until March, said Paula Colahan, president of the Citywide Parent-Teacher Organization, which hosts the annual event.

"State of the Schools can give the impression we have some budget information," Colahan said, "and we never do. We haven't for the last five years."

However, Superintendent James Hayes said he'll do his best to provide a financial outlook anyway, in about 15 minutes.

"That still is my responsibility," he said. "I think I'll be able to characterize it."

The presentation will be held Thursday evening from 7:30- 9:00 at the Briscoe Middle School auditorium. Refreshments and coffee reception will be held from 6:30 to 7:30.

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