AMESBURY — The School Committee reduced its operating budget by almost $500,000 without cutting a single teaching position Monday night.
The committee approved a $35.5 million proposed operating budget for the upcoming 2022-23 school year, up 1.7% over last year’s allocation, in April. Mayor Kassandra Gove, however, asked the committee to reduce its operating budget by roughly $500,000 earlier this month.
The committee met in the high school library after a Finance and Budget Subcommittee meeting of the whole Monday night and voted 5-0 to approve a new, $35 million operating budget, up 1.6% over last year’s number, with Gove and committee member Gaye Smith not present.
Superintendent Elizabeth McAndrews said she was able to reduce the district’s proposed budget by $477,589 by not hiring a new, $50,000 communication specialist and making other moves along the way.
The superintendent initially proposed reducing athletic fees to $250 per student, but she eventually restored the fees to $285 per student before Monday’s vote for a savings of $13,000.
Long-term substitute funding ($67,000) was also cut from McAndrews’ new budget proposal, as was: $7,500 by eliminating new building professional development funding; $42,283 in estimated teacher pay column moves; and $10,000 was saved by eliminating a student activity audit.
McAndrews also proposed hiring a high/middle school adjustment counselor at $65,014 a year but that position will be funded by federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding and would not affect the operating budget.
Four additional new items: $33,124 for iPad leases; $66,834 for an elementary school adjustment counselor; $66,834 for an elementary school math interventionist; and $56,000 for a multi-purpose facilities technician floater were moved to the school choice funding column, saving the district budget $222,792.
The district will, however, be hiring a new multipurpose facilities technician to join the maintenance and facilities team at $56,000 a year.
Committee member Mel Webster said Monday that the mayor and the School Committee are now on the same page when it comes to the budget.
A homeowner with property valued at an average of $480,218 can expect to pay an additional $329.77 in annual property taxes under Gove’s proposed $71.3 million operating budget, which includes a $35 million school district line item.
Webster acknowledged that the district needs to do a better job with its website, but he favored hiring a new multipurpose facilities technician over a communication specialist.
A multipurpose facilities technician would have an impact on students by better maintaining school buildings, according to Webster, who added that the new position could potentially allow the district to bring in new revenue by charging groups that want to use its facilities on the weekends.
The Finance and Budget Subcommittee voted 4-1 one to make the budget change with Maryann Welch opposed and the mayor abstaining.
The subcommittee also voted unanimously to remove the communication specialist from the budget and add the multipurpose facilities technician, with the mayor abstaining.
Welch said she agreed with a majority of the new district budget but didn’t want to put the high school and middle school adjustment counselor into Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding.
“They need consistent support and I wanted to roll that into our budget,” she said during Monday’s meeting. “Other than that, I was OK with the other choices.”
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.