AMESBURY — Due to the late date of Tuesday’s public hearing on the municipal budget, the Amesbury Public Schools have already been forced to lay off several employees, and given the amount of funds that were approved, more painful cuts could be imminent.
On Tuesday night, the City Council approved a new $59 million budget for the upcoming year that allocated $27,348,496 to the schools. While that figure represented a $915,000 increase over last year, it was still only half of the $1.8 million requested by the School Committee and far less than the $1.5 million needed to maintain the current programs and employees.
But the vote’s result wasn’t the only problem for the schools — the timing was as well. Deb LaValley, vice chair of the School Committee, said the public hearing on the city budget is usually held earlier in the month, but since this year it wound up falling after their June 15 deadline to send out pink slips, the schools were forced to lay some people off as a precaution.
Superintendent Michele Robinson said roughly four to six individuals have received their notices, but added that since the notices were sent out before the council approved the $115,000 increase over Mayor Thatcher Kezer’s requested $800,000 increase in spending, some of the laid-off employees could be brought back if the School Committee chooses to use the additional funds that way.
“Anything is possible,” she said. “We don’t know at this point; that’s the work that has to be done at that budget workshop with that extra appropriation.”
The problem is that there is still a $600,000 gap between the school’s level-services budget and the budget approved by the council. That is a source of great concern within the schools, which will now be forced to make cuts in order to stay within their new budget.