To the editor:
On April 25, the School Committee will finalize its budget submission to the mayor for fiscal 2013.
For the first time in many years, the budget is defined as a "level service" budget, meaning that programs and services being offered this year will continue next without the substantial cutting and erosion that has become the norm.
"Level service" should not be viewed as a goal, but rather an absolute baseline below which we do not venture.
While "level service" for next year may sound good on its face, keep in mind that it only means that we aren't continuing the trend of deep cuts to which we've become accustomed. The current year's budget reflects a $1.9 million cut in what would have been required to maintain "level service" from fiscal 2011.
Cuts last year saw the elimination of nearly 40 positions within our district. In basic terms, in order to achieve "level service" from what existed two years ago, we'd need $3.8M additional for next year's budget. We're effectively going one step forward and two steps back.
I urge the School Committee to put forward a budget that is complete with the supplemental appropriation that resulted from the "free cash" distributions made after the fiscal 2012 budget was originally approved.
There has been some debate as to whether that supplemental appropriation should be included in the budget and the answer is simply "yes."
"Level service" is either "level" or it's not. It will then be the responsibility of the mayor and the City Council to ensure that this budget is approved for the coming year.
It's time to reverse the trend of cuts and begin rebuilding educational services and programs that have been decimated in recent years.
While I don't believe it goes far enough, a "level service" budget at least begins to point us in the right direction. We are surrounded by communities wisely investing in education and education infrastructure.
Excellent schools are a critical component in attracting economic development and maintaining a strong community.
If we don't commit to investing in education, we will continue to lose ground.
Marble Road, Gloucester