AMESBURY — As the School Committee looks to close a projected fiscal year 2015 budget shortfall of $500,000 to $600,000, parents, students and teachers spoke out against proposed cuts to music, art and other programs.
Elaine Bucher of Riverfront Drive, the mother of three students in the system, sparked loud applause from the standing-room-only audience in the high school library as she urged the committee members to look elsewhere for savings, rather than the art and music departments.
“The cuts have to come from somewhere else,” Bucher said. “Or even better, they don’t have to come at all.”
Before the meeting, Assistant Superintendent Deidre Farrell said the schools’ projected shortfall is part of “the economic issues of education funding,” and isn’t a scenario unique to Amesbury.
“Not only are the city of Amesbury and the Amesbury Public Schools facing cuts to programs for kids, but other school districts across the North Shore are facing the same dilemma,” she said.
With the mission of keeping existing services level, the School Committee must wrestle with the increasing main budget drivers of health insurance, contractual salaries, special education tuition, and program staffing increases, contracted services and other expenses, including transportation and utilities, that account for a preliminary budget increase of between $1.2 to $1.3 million, while the preliminary city appropriation for the school system is only $800,000.
“Last year, we received an additional city appropriation of $915,000 to fund the FY14 budget,” Farrell said. “This amount represented almost all of the monies available to the city raised under Proposition 2 1/2. While we were appreciative and understanding about the ability to raise new monies under Prop 2 1/2, cuts still had to be made last year.
“This year, we are appreciative of the mayor’s preliminary city appropriation of $800,000, which, again, will be the majority of funds the city is able to raise under Proposition 2 1/2,” she said. “Once again, however, cuts will have to be made from our existing level services program. And, unfortunately, we will not be able to add staffing or establish programs that we all know are important to our students.”