The Board of Education voted unanimously to adopt the 2013-14 school budget at its meeting on Tuesday. With the exception of Stewart Mininsky, who was absent, trustees supported the $123.8 million spending plan, but only under the condition that school officials restore some highly contested cuts.
For the third time since talks began in February, Schools Superintendent David Weiss presented new budget numbers. The final plan is slightly larger than the $123.6 million blueprint that was presented two weeks ago. Part of the increase was attributable to a small change in the debt owed on the district’s $98 million bond to fund its school-preservation plan.
Officials also revised budgetary figures to reflect a $500,000 increase in operating costs, ending the recent tradition of avoiding any increases in that category of spending. The tax levy will be $93.2 million, up 1 percent over the current year.
“In this budget there is pain, and there are people who will be losing their jobs,” said Weiss. “We are aware of that, and we don’t make those decisions lightly.”
After a public outcry over a number of staff cuts that were proposed during the initial budget meetings, school officials restored some of the most disputed cuts when they presented the final budget proposal on April 9.
After Tuesday’s presentation, trustees expressed their gratitude for the tough decisions Weiss and Chief Operating Officer Michael DeVito had to make, but they also expressed concerns. Trustee Dr. Dennis Ryan said that he would have liked to see more administrative cuts, and board Vice President Darlene Tangney said she was concerned about cuts to staff at the Nike alternative high school, and that she wasn’t sure that the current district-wide administrative structure, with K-12 curriculum directors for each subject, is the best option for students.
“It has not been proven to me that this is the best structure,” Tangney said. “I am not convinced. I think it needs to be looked at.”
Members of the audience blasted the budget for cutting from “the bottom rather than the top,” saying that school officials should have trimmed administrative salaries and positions.