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Danvers School Committee announces spending freeze

Posted by Sean Teehan  February 15, 2011 12:55 PM

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A spending freeze was announced yesterday by Danvers' School Committee as they try to close a $515,000 budget deficit by the end of this fiscal year.

"Freezing all non-essential spending, we believe that we can work diligently and closely with the remaining non-salary items, that we will have the majority" of the deficit covered, said Richard Warren, Danvers Schools' director of finance and administration.

The school would still fall about $61,000 short from an a program that buses homeless children staying in Danvers hotels to their own school districts, Warren said.

While school administrators are "reasonably optimistic that we will end the year with a balanced budget," Warren predicted that a lack of stimulus funds, and union contracts guaranteeing raises to some teachers, along with other concerns will make cutbacks necessary when the committee meets for a March 2 public hearing discussing the budget for 2012.

The district will go without American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds next fiscal year that provide them with $300,000 in the 2011 fiscal year, committee member, Eric Crane pointed out.

"If we spend as much next year as we expect to this year, we need to come up with $300,000 in missing stimulus funds," Crane said.

According to Warren, the missing stimulus dollars along with a roughly $1.1 million rise in employee health insurance premiums and rising special education costs should result in substantial cuts next year.This fiscal year ends June 30.

"They will not be incidental cuts," Warren told the committee. "It's just going to take another year of belt tightening and, in some cases, sacrifices," Warren said.

Committee member Jean McCartin lamented the reality of possible staff cutbacks that came up during the meeting.

"We have tried very hard, year after year, to not cut staff, but it looks like we're going to end up there this year," McCartin said.

Spacial and financial concerns also influenced the committee to vote against accepting students for school choice.

"Given our spatial concerns, it's just not practical," Crane said.

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