City schools will see “unprecedented” cuts in operations and maintenance – from fewer new textbooks to less frequent cleaning – if the proposed budget wins City Council approval.
The School Committee finalized a $150.5 million budget Tuesday and will send the budget request to the council for approval on Monday.
Superintendent Matthew Malone said he and School Committee members worked to make student needs a priority in the budget.
The decision means next year’s budget will have fewer dollars for rolling out SMART boards in the high school, buying new textbooks and cleaning buildings.
“People have just got to understand that we’re cutting down some of our operations control to have people in the classroom,” Malone said Wednesday.
Malone initially requested $157.4 million for net school spending, a roughly $11 million increase over last year’s budget. Mayor Linda Balzotti countered with a $150.5 million allotment for schools.
The figure does not include district contributions to city expenses, including health insurance and benefits for employees and retirees. Next year, the district will spend $39.4 million, a $6.5 million increase in those expenses.
Brockton did receive an $8.5 million increase in state Chapter 70 aid, but will lose $2.5 million in federal funds next year. The district also has increases in fixed costs, including health insurance, contractual obligations with employees and higher enrollment.
The cuts to operations enable the district to keep staff members. Malone initially issued 100 layoff notices to teachers and other staff in May, but cuts allowed the district to call back 99 of them.
School Committee Vice Chairman Thomas Minichiello described the cuts to maintenance and operations as unprecedented. He said $200,000 in cuts to textbooks and $300,000 in cuts to instructional supplies are necessary, but will definitely be felt in the schools.
“I think we’re going to stumble and bumble through the year,” Minichiello said. “The question is, what is the following year going to look like.”
Malone said the district is delaying the rollout of technology at the high school for a year. Brockton is cutting $542,553 in the technology budget.
“I’m hedging my bets that the most valuable tool in the world is an adult working with students,” Malone said.
The district will also reduce costs by closing eight of the 23 schools by 7 p.m. each day. The schools will not be available to rent, will not need to be staffed with a custodian and will keep electricity, heating and cooling to a minimum. The move is expected to save $320,000.
District officials are estimating they can save additional money following repairs to windows, roofs and boilers at eight schools through the state school building authority’s green repair program.
Minichiello said the figures budgeted for savings – $100,000 in natural gas and electricity as well as extra money for repairs that will no longer be needed – are only estimates.
“This is the first time that we’re going to see this type of savings so it’s not like we have a year under our belts,” Minichiello said.
Malone and Minichiello both mentioned that the state’s Chapter 70 funding formula does not provide enough money for urban districts with high populations of special education students and English language learners. The students need extra instruction from well-qualified staff, often costing more to educate than other students.
The City Council is expected to vote on the school budget on Monday, along with the 2012-2013 city budget. Councilors cannot increase the school budget, but can make cuts. The meeting is set for 8 p.m. at City Hall.
Alex Bloom may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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