NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

January 31, 2013

Mulqueen seeking ways to bridge Pentucket budget gap

WEST NEWBURY — Superintendent Jeff Mulqueen and his business manager Michael Bergeron made the rounds this past month to the three towns of the Pentucket Regional School District in hopes of selling their plan for creating a “student-centered budgeting approach and world-class priorities.”

Mulqueen told the school board on Tuesday that the town-to-town budget presentation was “very successful.”

Still, Chairman Brian Page of the regional School Committee says tough choices lie ahead to make up a $500,000 gap in Mulqueen’s proposed $35.9 million spending plan for next year.

The discussion was part of a report Mulqueen made to the school board in which he outlined progress he’s made this month in three specific areas — budget, facilities and school security.

The draft budget represents a 2.5 percent increase over this year and Mulqueen has indicated he is philosophically opposed to seeking any further funding from the communities via a tax override to make up a shortfall in the district’s operating budget. Instead, his administrative team is seeking ways to reduce expenditures without cutting.

One possible option might be to privatize the district’s lunch program. Jill Eichhorst of West Newbury asked Bergeron to bring back to the committee a review of the food service program and any areas where savings might be found.

Mulqueen said he was grateful for those who participated in the weekly discussions and he felt his explanations for the administrative reorganization he is proposing to help bridge the budget gap were received “favorably.” Among the changes Mulqueen is recommending are the elimination of the assistant superintendent and Sweetsir Elementary School principal positions.

Groveland’s Joe D’Amore asked whether Mulqueen was able to sufficiently address concerns raised by some parents of students with disabilities that his proposed consolidation of the special education director and out of school placement coordinator positions would create a job that was too big for one person to handle effectively. For a department that handles the needs of the district’s most vulnerable kids, this is a real concern, these parents said.

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