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May 14, 2014

Council sends school measure to study

NEWBURYPORT — City councilors Monday night sent to committee an unorthodox proposal that would enable municipal leaders to more easily raise money for schools in the future.

Councilors Meghan Kinsey and Allison Heartquist had forwarded a measure to fellow councilors that proposes to seek a home rule petition that would “provide another option for the funding opportunities for the education budget in Newburyport.”

In an explanatory letter, organizers said the purpose was to “assure that in the event the City Council and the voters of the city decide they want to authorize an override for the schools, that the override amount will always be directed at the schools.”

After limited discussion, the measure was sent to the Joint Education Committee, the Budget and Finance Committee and the Committee of the Whole.

One reason the Committee of the Whole was included was that some councilors said they want more information, and the Committee of the Whole would include all councilors who want to attend.

“I really don’t understand how this works,” said City Councilor Jared Eigerman, a lawyer. He said he would like the opportunity to hear more about the proposal in committee.

Mayor Donna Holaday expressed strong opposition at the meeting, calling it “irresponsible.”

“The taxpayers have approved two new school projects, and are paying for many other improvements in the city,” said Holaday, who is the chairperson of the School Committee.

She said that the average taxpayer will be paying $485 more each per year because of investments in the schools, and that the upcoming school budget includes a 10.1 percent increase.

Holaday said she would veto the item if it reaches her desk.

The measure would have to be approved by the state Legislature, as well as the City Council and also the mayor.

Kinsey said she helped create the measure because many parents of school-age children are concerned that the schools are being underfunded.

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