GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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December 5, 2012

Costs for Manchester Essex schools likely to increase

MANCHESTER — Officials concede that it is still early in the fiscal 2014 budget process, but the tentative budget for the Manchester Essex Regional School District is showing a 6 percent increase — fueled by a projected hike of more than 10 percent for district salaries.

Pamela Beaudoin, superintendent and Avi Urbas, finance director for the district, made their preliminary presentation to the School Committee during their Tuesday night meeting.

According to Urbas’s report, the tentative budget for fiscal year 2014, which begins next July 1, calls for spending $21,279,147, an increase of $1,211,531, or 6 percent, from the current year.

The budget document also indicates that Manchester will account for 63.28 percent ($10,906,880) of the towns’ assessment, with Essex picking up the rest of the tab at 36.72 percent, or $6,329,146. The remaining amount, $2,562,774, is set to largely be covered by Chapter 70 state funding.

Urbas said there have been increases in state funding in the past, but this year might be different. The official numbers for Chapter 70 are due in January, he said.

”There is really no guarantee state aid will continue to grow after two major years of adjustments,” he said.

The vast majority of the spending increase is tied to salary increases for staff and faculty under retroactive terms of a new teachers’ contract, Urbas indicated. In all, the line item for salaries is pegged to rise by a 10.4 percent spike, or $1,320,561, under the tentative budget for fiscal year 2014.

Beaudoin said the tentative budget for 2014 includes cost of living adjustments for both 2013 and 2014 fiscal years. The Manchester Essex Teachers’ Association did not to take any COLA increase for the fiscal 2012 budget, and contracts were still in negotiations at the time the fiscal 2013 budget was put in place.

Jeffrey Bodmer-Turner, the association president, said in a phone interview Wednesday that the 2013 increase in the cost of living adjustment reflects about a 4 percent increase in more time worked for staff and faculty.

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