AMESBURY — Superintendent Jared Fulgoni presented his tentative $34.6 million budget for the 2020-21 school year to the School Committee Monday night.
According to Fulgoni’s numbers, the district will need to increase its operating budget by $1.8 million – up 5.58% over the current $32.8 million budget – just to stay at level services.
“This is what we need to just turn the keys in August and open the schools with exactly what we have right now,” Fulgoni said. “It doesn’t add anything or subtract anything. This just gets us in the doors.”
According to Fulgoni, the School Committee has also asked to increase his draft budget by 7.5%.
Among the School Committee’s requests: adding a kindergarten teacher ($65,822); a kindergarten paraprofessional ($28,000); an additional special education teacher ($65,822) and two special education paraprofessionals ($60,000 combined) at Amesbury Elementary School.
The School Committee has also asked for a special education/pre-kindergarten teacher ($65,822); and paraprofessional ($30,000) at the Cashman Elementary School; a language-based classroom teacher ($65,822); two additional paraprofessionals ($30,000 each); a part-time English language learner teacher ($32,911); a school adjustment counselor at the middle school ($65,822); and a postgraduate special education teacher at the high school ($65,822).
Mel Webster, the School Committee Finance Subcommittee chairman, said the board also intends to add a literacy program for the elementary schools at a cost of about $100,000, $60,000 of which is expected to come from increased Chapter 70 funding from the state.
“That’s not easy to ask for,” Webster said. “And it is going to be a challenge for the City Council and the mayor when they look at the budget. But we are just trying to present what we truly need. When you have to add that 5.6% just to keep the lights on, that creates a huge challenge.“
Webster said the School Committee has also asked to see any potential areas where savings can be found at the high school given the declining enrollment numbers there.
Fulgoni said he recently received an email from a School Committee member requesting a closer look at the high school Athletic Department’s coaches’ salary stipend budget.
Fulgoni also said he does not believe the district will be seeing any substantial new funding from the Student Opportunity Act passed by the Legislature earlier this year.
“We aren’t going to see any significant increase from that,” he said. “But more importantly, I fear the revenues coming in at the state level will be significantly down because of the coronavirus situation. We also anticipate that state revenues will go down.
“I think every superintendent across the commonwealth right now is very nervous about what we will see in regards to Chapter 70 funding and what we will see in regards to circuit breaker reimbursement and state funding. As goes the tax base and revenues at the state and federal level, so goes the revenue that comes into the school district. I think we will all need to be a little cautious in our assumptions about what is coming in from the state.”
The School Committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing on Monday, March 30, and to vote on the budget on Monday, April 6.
Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.