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Proposed school budget cuts
like an 'earthquake' in Quincy

Posted by Molly Connors  May 12, 2010 03:23 PM

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While Quincy’s School Committee and Superintendent Richard DeCristofaro are working out how to handle budget shortfall of more than $9 million, officials say the impact will be seismic.

“It’s going to be like an earthquake on our schools,” said Anne Mahoney, a member of the School Committee.

Children in all schools and all levels will feel the cuts, officials said, and as many as 201 positions could be lost. Everything from foreign languages to schools sports and bus services could be affected.

Schools officials say they need almost $91.6 million to maintain the same services next year that they provided this year, but Mayor Thomas Koch allocated about $82.3 million in the budget he presented to the City Council on Monday.

At the kindergarten level, parents may need to start paying fees for full-day sessions.

“In these economic times, I think we need to be realistic and look at programs that aren’t state-mandated, and that [full-day kindergarten] is not,” said Barbara Isola, a School Committee member.

At elementary schools, literacy teachers could be cut at, and at the middle schools, all foreign languages could be cut.

Certain middle school sports, including basketball, may need to be cut because the current $15 fees cannot even cover the coach’s stipend.

Bus service, for grades K to 5, could the provided to children outside a two-mile radius from the school, compared with the current one-mile range. A year ago, the service radius expanded to one mile from from three-quarters of a mile, officials said.

At the high school, freshmen and junior varsity sports are also vulnerable to cuts, Mahoney said. Fees for hockey and football may increase from $200 and $100, respectively, though the amounts haven't been determined.

Officials said it's unlikely the overall budget figures allotted by Koch will change.

“The first [budget] meeting is always the hardest meeting because it’s the reality meeting,” Mahoney said.

But while the mayor establishes the bottom line numbers for city departments, it's up to the City Council and the School Committee to determine how the appropriated money is spent. The budgets is expected to be settled before fiscal 2011 begins on July 1.

Because this is the first of what will be several meetings, Isola cautions people against digging too deep into the specifics of what could be cut, saying doing so is “premature.”

When asked if teacher layoffs were inevitable, Isola replied yes, given the size of the cut. “Layoffs of who is the question,” Isola said.

The schools comprise 37 percent of the City’s overall budget of almost $230 million and are facing rising, mandated costs such as special education. About $4.8 million of the schools’ deficit is tied up in contractually obligated teacher pay raises.

The schools are taking a 3.6 percent cut from their budget for fiscal 2010, which ends June 30, while police and fire are taking 3.7 percent cuts, and other departments, such as the library, are taking cuts close to 10 percent, according to officials.

The teachers have been asked to take a one-year wage deferral, but no compromise has been struck yet.

Citizens will get their first chance to have comment on the proposals at the School Committee's meeting at 7 p.m. in City Hall.

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