GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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June 18, 2013

Council adds $600K for schools

City budget set to be OK'd at special hearing tonight

A $600,000 increase in the school budget — City Council’s only change to the mayor’s proposed budget — will allow the school district to retain five or six employees who would have been laid off due to the creation of level-funded budget.

The influx of cash may also allow the schools to hire some math teachers.

City Council is slated to vote on approving the amended budget tonight, with the council’s Budget and Finance Sub-Committee having held numerous meetings reviewing each aspect of the mayor’s proposed budget since May 7.

The additional $600,000 allotted to the schools in the amended budget will boost the schools’ budget to $1.6 million, and change the schools’ tune from deciding who might be laid off to considering which new positions might be incorporated.

“Our most vulnerable cut would have involved possibly staffing, to the tune of $251,828 (in salaries). We’re now able to prevent that from happening,” School Superintendent Richard Safier said Monday.

While $700,000 less than School Department’s original $2.3 million request, school administrators are grateful for the extra allotment.

“I’m not looking to try to have our entire wish list granted,” Safier said. “We remain extremely appreciative of what the city has done for the school fund.”

The $248,000 remaining of the $600,000 allotment once all teachers contracts are fulfilled could go pay the salary of a sorely needed district information technology technician. The district now employs one technician who works on about 433 computers, while the state’s Department of Education recommends one technician for every 100 computers.

The School Committee is also strongly considering educator positions, mostly based around math, with options including a math coach for the elementary schools, an MCAS intervention teacher for O’Maley, and a district math coordinator.

“We’re going to be sitting down this week to try to finalize what would be our priorities and what we can afford,” Safier said.

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