AMESBURY — The City Council voted unanimously to approve next year’s budget of $57,505,230 Tuesday evening, the first budget under the administration of Mayor Ken Gray. While common ground on the budget’s many issues has been difficult to come by over the past few months, it seems many eyes are turning toward Beacon Hill.
“This unanimous vote coupled with the unanimous vote of the School Committee demonstrates to the public that Amesbury’s leadership has come together to collectively face our difficult financial problems,” Gray said. “It has not been easy for anyone, but I am proud of the process that has led to such a clear expression of unity.”
The School Committee voted an appropriation of $28,148,498 on April 1; and while that amount represented an $800,000 increase over the previous year’s appropriation, it still left a $330,542 shortfall to provide level services for the 2014-15 school year.
Numerous potential programming cuts were planned, including the loss of a year of foreign language in the high school, the early college program, technology education at the middle and high schools and consumer science at the middle school.
Along the way, $165,000 was found to fund many of the proposed cuts; but as of now, it appears that both the high school’s technology education and the middle school’s consumer science classes will not return next year.
“It was pretty much similar to the previous budgets that we have gone through,” City Council president Joe McMilleon said. “It was good that the mayor worked out a compromise to get $165,000 more toward the $330,000 shortfall that the schools had. I thought that was creative and was a good compromise. He collaborated with a lot of people and it was good to see that worked.”
What is not working for the city, according to many in attendance Tuesday, is the state’s Chapter 70 contribution. Amesbury received $8,322,927 from the state for the 2004-2005 school year. For the upcoming school year, the state’s contribution is $8,577,411. Unfunded state mandates for special education were also of great concern to both McMilleon and fellow City Councilor Anne Ferguson.