AMESBURY — Facing a nearly $1 million gap between its Fiscal Year 2014 school budget and the funding allocated under the City Council’s municipal budget, the School Committee was forced to bite the bullet and make numerous painful decisions that will affect every student, parent and department within the school system.
Last night the School Committee unanimously, but reluctantly, approved its updated FY14 school budget that falls within the $27,348,496 amount set by the City Council during its budget hearings last week and includes cuts to nearly every school department and sizable increases in student fees.
The budget represents a $915,000 increase over last year’s budget, but is also half of the $1.8 million initially approved by the committee and significantly less than the $1.5 million needed to maintain the current programs and employees.
In order to close that $971,119 gap, the School Committee utilized every tool at its disposal, even though none of them was appealing.
Starting next year, athletic fees will increase from $250 to $325 per sport, $60 to $80 per co-curricular and $810 to $1,055 per family, roughly a 30 percent increase.
Transportation fees will increase from $300 to $360 per child and $450 to $540 for two or more, roughly a 20 percent increase. There will also be an increase in the family cap and no early bonus, at least for this upcoming year.
Finally, pre-kindergarten tuition will increase from $2,430 to $3,000, roughly a 25 percent increase.
Assistant Superintendent Deirdre Farrell estimated that the new revenues brought in by these fee increases would raise an additional $85,000 for the schools. The remaining $886,119 gap between the School Committee’s budget and the City Council’s appropriation would have to be filled by cuts, she said.
The resulting cuts were widespread and will affect nearly every department in every school within the district. Probably the toughest cut, however, was the loss of the new third-grade teacher position at Amesbury Elementary.