, Newburyport, MA

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March 22, 2013

Schools seek spending increase

School board girds for fight over money

AMESBURY – The School Committee will seek roughly $2.3 million in spending increases for the upcoming school year to keep up with a rising student population and steep increases in special education costs.

Specifically, the committee wants to add new teachers to help bring down class sizes, hire a full time band teacher and bring on additional assistants, counselors and paraprofessionals on top of the $1.506 million needed in order to maintain the current level of service and keep up with rising special education costs.

The School Committee unveiled its new $28 million budget during its meeting last night, and it is expected to vote on the budget on April 2.

Following the presentation of the budget, numerous parents and teachers spoke up in support of the budget increases, and the overwhelming sentiment was that class sizes were growing too high, particularly at the third grade level.

“These aren’t additional needs, they are primary needs,” said Elaine Bucher, a local resident who teaches in another district. “These are things that need to be funded so our students become well-rounded individuals.”

Among the new increases being requested are four to six new teachers in the high school, new special education classrooms at the high school and middle school, a new third grade teacher at the Amesbury Elementary School, a new literary paraprofessional at the Cashman school, a new full-time band teacher at the high school and an out of district and programmatic special education facilitator, among other things.

If all of the new budget increases were to be approved they would add up to $751,200 to $865,000. The remaining $1.506 million being sought would be to maintain the school’s current level of service, and nearly half of that increase can be directly attributed to special education.

Between the two elementary schools, the middle school, the high school and district-wide costs, Amesbury will see a $685,311 increase in total SPED costs, good for 46 percent of the total level service increase. The remaining $820,870 in increases was driven by a variety of other things, but mostly by contractually obligated teacher salary increases, employee health care and district benefits.

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