After weeks of review, discussion and debate, the North Shore Board of Education, shy of three trustees, unanimously approved Superintendent Dr. Peter Giarrizzo’s proposed 2018-19 budget last Thursday.
The total proposed budget is $104.8 million, an increase of approximately 3 percent from 2017-2018. The total keeps North Shore $300,000 below the tax levy. The budget’s expenditures reflect a 2.7 percent increase from the previous school year, and district revenues, totaling $86 million, are up almost 2 percent. State aid increased by 3.4 percent, at $5.3 million.
The budget’s drivers, which include litigation, supervision of instruction, and regular instruction, increased by $3.3 million. Library and audiovisual instruction decreased by over $4,000 from 2017- 2018, while technology instruction increased by $135,000. Special education received an overall $200,000 decrease from last year.
Before the vote, student representatives from Weave Together, a recently formed group that aims to fight discrimination in the district through social and institutional change, spoke during public comment. They openly stated that the $200,000 allocated for staff development — a $50,000 decrease from last year — was inadequate to support the group’s platform.
Weave Together had submitted a list of demands to the board three weeks before, which called for sensitivity training for all staff and administration, teacher diversification, and an elementary curriculum that educates students on diversity and respect. Student Gian Royal said the group would not “tolerate an inadequate budget.”
“Our goals are not fulfilled by verbal commitments,” Royal said, “Taxpayer money should not fund bigotry. We need this budget to reflect diversity, sensitivity and accountability.”
Royal’s older sister Francesca, a graduate of the district, felt similarly. “I will not be voting for a budget that doesn’t adequately address the provisions set forth by Weave Together, and I urge the community to do the same,” she said.
Board President Toni Labbate assured the concerned students that other lines in the budget support their demands. “There are other ways to implement this learning,” she said, “that’s not the only line.”
Trustee Sara Jones agreed that the budget could support Weave Together’s platform, but admitted she felt anxious without having an actionable plan implemented in the district.
Giarrizzo said that after Weave Together’s presentation, he had met with the group’s leadership to review their demands, and said the district is in favor of supporting them. He added that one of his superintendent conference days would be dedicated to diversity work.
During new business, Jones had posed a question about allocating $150,000 of the district’s reserves to fund next year’s tax levy in order to be better prepared for future budgeting seasons.
Assistant Superintendent for Business Olivia Buatsi said, “We will look at reducing the appropriated reserves to increase the levy for future years.”