The Boston Globe's new local YourTown: Beverly website debuts today [more about this below] with a summary of the final FY11 city and school budget that was approved last night by the City Council. The most striking fact to us is the contrast in the final number of job reductions on the city side compared to the schools.
The article states that the "budget avoids layoffs on the city side, but essentially level-funds most departments and calls for reducing about six jobs through attrition."
But, the article states, "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."
Clearly the cuts on the school side are much steeper. As has been reported on this site and elsewhere, the school job cuts total the equivalent of about 31 full-time positions. While the final breakdown is not clear, it appears that the majority of the school side cuts result from layoffs.
Scanlon tells the Globe that ‘‘I think the money I gave to the schools is fair,’’ and then repeats his often-stated line 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 [or 3%] more per year."
As we've noted before however, while Scanlon bemoans the fact that the city's healthcare and pension cost increases account for nearly all new spending on the city side, he seems to forget that the schools are also faced with ever increasing healthcare and pension costs (growth rate for FY11 was 11%), in addition to local aid and other state funding cuts. This makes living within that 3% annual increase from the city a daunting task, and results in the kinds of drastic cuts to the core curriculum that we have seen this year.
On the local media front, this new hyperlocal Globe site, YourTown: Beverly, which includes its own schools page, looks to be a welcome addition to our local news options. The Beverly Citizen's web presence has been nearly dormant at times for most of the year, impossible to navigate since its redesign, and has recently even stopped posting most of the paper's school related news, instead posting a one paragraph tease, and a list of places to purchase the print edition if you want to read more.
With the Globe stepping in to fill the online void, its unlikely that the Citizen's ploy to put the print genie back in the bottle is going to have much success.
6/30 UPDATE: The Salem News also reports on the final budget approval today. It quotes City Council President Mike Cahill, in a statement we can only assume refers to the "city side," of the budget rather than the "school side," as saying "...with the historically difficult economy and a 4 percent cut in state aid, the numbers we were able to approve were quite good."
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.