GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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March 6, 2014

ME schools avoid budget override

MANCHESTER — The Manchester Essex School Committee has given its stamp of approval to a tentative fiscal 2015 school budget, juggling some staffing cuts with hikes in user fees to remain within the limits of Proposition 21/2.

The proposed budget of $21.4 million seeks a 3.5 percent increase in assessments to the two towns, with a 3.36 overall spending increase over the current year, Superintendent of Schools Pamela Beaudoin said Wednesday. Funding from the towns accounts for 87 percent of the budget while state funding under Chapter 70 provides the remaining 13 percent.

Beaudoin said she didn’t have the projected tax rates, but she emphasized that the budget avoids the need for any school-related Proposition 21/2 override for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1. The result leaves Rockport as the only Cape Ann community seeking an override this spring.

Beaudoin said school officials scaled back the proposed budget increase by $355,000 from the original fiscal 2015 spending proposal.

She said that the district plans to outsource four evening custodial positions for the elementary schools, resulting in layoffs for this mix of full- and part-time workers.

Beaudoin said custodial work is already outsourced for the middle/high school; this step will be a continuation of that. The move is projected to save the district around $50,000, she said.

Two full-time teachers also plan to retire this year, she said, and the district plans to not fill these positions.

“The other thing we did, which will be difficult for families, is we’re working on a plan for increasing athletic fees and will be instituting a transportation fee,” Beaudoin said.

While the details of these plans need to be ironed out, Beaudoin said, the district calculated needing to bring in an extra $50,000 from athletic fees and an additional $30,000 from transportation.

The transportation fee would be imposed on students who live within 1.5 miles of their respective school, according to a budget summary. Funding for out-of-state travel for athletic or other events would also be cut.

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