By GAYLA CAWLEY
SWAMPSCOTT — School officials are scrambling to come up with ways to erase a $1.6 million budget deficit.
Swampscott School Business Administrator Evan Katz said the projected FY18 school budget exceeds available revenue by $1.6 million. He said school officials have been notified that the town’s allocation increase for the school budget is roughly $750,000. Last year, the town allocated an additional $1.1 million to the schools.
Katz said the $750,000 town increase won’t even cover the projected $960,000 in salary increases for school employees and teachers. The school district is in the midst of teacher contract negotiations, and the figure is based on an anticipated 1.5 percent raise for educators.
“The school committee has done a really good job of negotiating favorable contracts with staff,” Katz said. “The town needs to understand that $750,000 doesn’t even cover our favorable contract settlements.”
Another $700,000 is needed to fully fund the FY17 budget, which was underfunded in areas such as facilities maintenance and special education tuition and transportation. He said those areas that were underfunded last year need to be planned for in the upcoming budget.
The third major area driving the deficit is the projected additional $700,000 needed for anticipated budget increases such as special education and facilities.
Katz, Superintendent Pamela Angelakis and the School Committee are faced with cuts in the budget or raising fees to reduce expenses, if they can’t count on more town funds. Katz said a staff vacancy might not be filled when an employee leaves, and staff and programming cuts are likely with the size of the budget gap.
“We want to maintain the educational quality we have,” he said. “We don’t want to cut positions. We don’t want to do anything that’s going to affect the quality of classroom instruction. At the same time, we want to settle the teachers’ contracts.”
Angelakis said cuts and other options to reduce expenses is not the direction she wants to see the district moving forward, but said the reality is in the numbers.
The school leadership team will present some options to reduce expenses to the school committee at their scheduled Jan. 11 meeting.
“We’re sort of in a crunch and feeling it hard and sort of wanting the town to know what we’re feeling,” said Amy O’Connor, school committee vice-chair.
Gayla Cawley can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.