Many people have expressed concern about what the Newburyport School Committee has done in terms of reducing expenses.
We have supported our school district administration’s effort in this regard. The administration has acted prudently and in good faith, and has reduced expenses.
First, the school district has had a spending freeze since October 17, 2005, on all discretionary expenses, and those not related to student needs. Yes, that is most of the school year.
The administration has implemented energy conservation efforts, to include shutting down all of the school buildings during winter vacation periods, and turning down the thermostats during those periods, as well as on weekends, to 55 degrees.
School administration also asked, and received cooperation from custodial staff to use vacation time during these periods, and the staff were graciously supportive, and participated with this plan.
By doing all of this, Newburyport has maximized the number of days to save dollars, which has led to more dollars being saved. There are some cities in this state that did not make these efforts in as timely of a way, and now they are looking at huge shortfalls, or have had to lay off personnel in January of ‘06, as a result.
As a School Committee member, I was pleased to learn today, that Mayor Moak has been able to add approximately $100,000 more of an appropriation for the schools in the budget that he presented to the City Council. And I hope that the Massachusetts State Senate can add more dollars to Chapter 70, and I have lobbied legislators in regard to this, as recently as April 26, 2006, joining Mayor John Moak at the State House.
We hope to get more dollars for extraordinary relief from the Special Education Circuit Breaker account, perhaps as much as $100,000. And there is the possibility of attracting “Choice” tuition students to our schools. We especially have room in next year’s grades 5, 7, & 9, with limited availability in other grades — especially limited in our elementary schools.
Students who enroll as “Choice” in grades 5, 7, & 9 will not threaten class size guidelines, as there are desks to fill, in each one of these grades.
To summarize, efforts by the administration to save dollars have been prudent, and done in good faith, especially with the expectation of increasing utility costs, and done with the idea that the more that can be saved today, the less that will require reduction, or cuts, later.
At the expense of this year’s canceled Winter Carnival, Mother Nature’s help with a pretty mild January and February certainly is something to be thankful for, as well.
Steven P. Cole
Vice Chairman, Newburyport School Committee