The Board of Education finalized its 2011-2012 operating budget Tuesday night in a special meeting. In a unanimous vote, the board approved a $229,614,948 budget—a 2.79 percent increase—with 1,918.1 staff positions. The board began their approval of the budget Monday night but received an extension until Wednesday morning to present their figures to the city; an extension that Board Member Jerry Pia noted was “bizarre.”
“I think they did a great job,” said Pia of Superintendent Joshua Star and Director of Finance Hugh Murphy. “It’s not a good seat to be sitting in during budget presentations, but they did a great job and gave us great information.”
The original budget, presented by Starr in January, proposed cutting 12 special education positions, one administrator for the alternative schools (ARTS) program, five social workers and four speech and language pathologists. The district received new figures from the city last week that added $2 million to the budget through savings in pensions, retirement, and post-employment benefits. The found money allowed Starr to add back some positions, many of which were a source of controversy with the community.
“I’d like to thank the diligent board members who listened to the people at Dolan Middle School at our public hearing and put some stuff back in the budget that we thought was much needed,” said Pia.
Two speech and language pathologists, three social workers, and an ARTS administrator were restored. The board also voted to leave those seats of the three retiring middle school principals vacant for the upcoming year. Some board members were hesitant to leave the positions unfilled.
“I’ve seen it too often in other parts of government. Once you eliminate them it’s very hard to get back,” said Board member Richard Lyons.
“Middle schools are certainly different animals and need different advisory and attention, but we can get by for a year by leaving these positions vacant. I never suggested a permanent cut to middle schools assistant principals,” said Starr Monday night.
Going forward, the board plans to review funding for adult education, DOMUS, energy savings, math coaches and other items that may also add some money back should the budget need to be trimmed further. The first meeting of the board of finance to review the budget is March 16.