From left: School Committee vice chair Ann Marie Cugno, Mayor Michael
McGlynn, and Superintendent Roy Belson at Monday's meeting.
By Travis Andersen
The School Committee approved a $43 million budget on Monday for the fiscal year beginning July 1, but not before pledging to fund the high school crew team, prompting cheers from rowers and their parents who who watched the proceedings on a stuffy evening in the Medford High Library.
"There is a couple of extra grand in the budget, so I hope we can work it out," said Mayor Michael McGlynn, who chairs the committee.
McGlynn said the committee and Superintendent Roy Belson would find a way to ensure the team had enough cash for a fall and spring regatta, something that hung in the balance as recently as last week. He later opened the floor to public comment, joshing the crowd for effect.
"Keep in mind you already won on crew," he said.
A largely supportive crowd responded with laughter, but resident Nancy Galvin had one bone to pick with the committee. She noted that it has a larger supply budget in fiscal 2010 than the four elementary schools combined.
"I really hope this could be looked at in greater detail in the future," said Galvin, who has two children at Brooks Elementary School.
McGlynn said he's talking with a local business owner who may want to make a contribution to the public schools.
If the donor comes through, McGlynn said, "maybe we (can) create a panel to redistribute some of that money." He later declined to name the potential donor but said the business owner has discussed a contribution "in excess of $10,000," adding that he'll know more in the next couple of weeks.
The committee now sends the $43,010,000 budget to the City Council, which has to send a full city budget to McGlynn for signing by Wednesday. The fiscal 2009 outlay for schools was $44.8 million, before losing $533,000 in midyear cuts to state aid.
Belson has repeatedly cited diminishing state aid as a prime driver of the budget crunch, but on Monday he stressed the good news. Among the highlights, he noted that while the committee initially planned to lay off 11 teachers in fiscal 2010, it has managed to save three positions.
There will be two layoffs in special education, as well as one apiece in the system's English, math, social studies, science, physical education, and foreign language departments. The elementary schools will not see layoffs.
The teacher's union has agreed to a one-year salary freeze but last week rejected a measure to pay more toward health insurance. Asked after the meeting if approving the measure would have saved additional jobs, school finance director Ann Giombetti didn't flinch.
"Absolutely," she said. The union did not immediately return a call.
While several committee members warned the belt-tightening may continue in fiscal 2010, McGlynn said the cash flow from Station's Landing and River's Edge - two large developments, the first thriving and the second just getting started - may offset future revenue losses in a down economy.
"We've still got a lot of good things going for us," he said.