NEWBURYPORT — After receiving recommendations from the state Tuesday, the School Committee will prepare a "one-twelfth" fiscal 2021 budget for July in anticipation of further changes and revenue losses over the next few months.
During a 3½-hour meeting Tuesday on Zoom, Mayor Donna Holaday said the state "cannot get a handle on revenues at this point.
"They can't give us numbers at this point," said Holaday, who chairs the committee. "We can't go forward and create some arbitrary budget that we end up having to cut by 25 to 30%."
This guidance from the state followed Gov. Charlie Baker's declaration on Tuesday that Massachusetts schools would stay closed through the remainder of the academic year.
School Committee members discussed the possibility of still holding a budget forum for this partial budget so the public can comment on the process. The committee will resume the conversation next week.
With schools closed for at least three months, Superintendent Sean Gallagher said the district is losing out on revenue from the cafeteria, prekindergarten and kindergarten, and spring athletics user fees, which will affect the final budget number.
In addition, the state may reduce or eliminate special education circuit breaker relief and other school and district grants, he said.
Gallagher and committee members also talked about rising special educations costs, saying they are the priority for the budget. Other items such as the effort to expand the world language program and the implementation of late start times may have to be reworked in terms of their details, committee members explained.
"We don't even know if kids will be back in school in September yet," Holaday said.
According to the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, "We can anticipate a $4.4 billion loss of revenue in the state next year," Holaday said, adding that it's the "best-case scenario if we are able to open the state and businesses by early July."
In trying to put a budget together, Holaday said, "We are looking at anywhere from a 12% to 16% loss of state aid. This is devastating. The worst-case scenario could be up to 24% loss of local aid."
The city has been scaling back spending wherever possible, but "this is something that we've never experienced before," Holaday said. The district's focus is to avoid cutting faculty and staff, she said.
The committee will hold another virtual meeting April 28. Details and the agenda will be posted at www.newburyport.k12.ma.us.