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Lynn school board cuts $1.72M from funds

LYNN-Less than a month after Mayor Edward J. Clancy Jr. requested the School Committee shave $900,000 from its appropriated budget, members voted to nearly double that amount in cuts in the wake of rising energy costs.In all, the committee voted 6-1 Monday to reduce appropriated funds by $1.72 million to cover the $900,000 Clancy requested, along with an additional $829,000 in energy costs, $196,000 of which the department still owes from last year.While the cuts represent a significant amount of the department’s appropriated funds, which are monies that can be spent in the future as opposed to funds that have already been allocated, outgoing Business Administrator Stephen Upton managed to develop a plan that will not cost anyone in the department their job.Upton said that salary and transportation costs are right on target for this year, although the increase in employees receiving raises for achieving new degrees has increased. Because of that spike, he was not able to take as much money from positions that had been budgeted but never filled.”In essence, those empty positions do not exist,” he said. “Many, many more people have new degrees this year, our spending is ok, but empty positions were not available to use as cuts toward energy, or the $900,000 requested by the Mayor.”The department has placed a hiring freeze on those empty positions, and there will not be any new positions budgeted in the future, which Upton said will ultimately save the department $150,000 from its appropriated salary line.Upton was also able to take $150,000 from the transportation department, which is only projected to use $50,000 of its over $300,000 appropriation for this year.Money projected from special education tuition along with funds originally set aside for repairs at Classical High School made up the most significant portion of the cuts, combining for $800,000 in total unused cash.Upton said the special education department had a projected surplus of $863,000 in their tuition line, of which he left $363,000 as a safety net.Some additional smaller cuts came from left over funds at individual schools, such as library and book funds, to equal the $1.72 million total.”When you cut nearly $1.8 million at this point, you are going to see cuts that you don’t want to see,” said Committee member Jeffery Newhall. “But to cut this out without reducing staff, it is remarkable when you are losing $1.8 million.”Clancy had requested cuts from both the city and school appropriations last month, in anticipation of a stormy financial forecast when negotiating the fiscal 2009 budget.Superintendent Nicholas Kostan is also concerned about the financial future of the department, which is struggling to fund necessities such as school repairs.”We are trying to save as much money as we can this year to soften the blow for next year, which we expect will be a very difficult fiscal year,” he said.As he has consistently stated in the past, Clancy once again chalked up the need for the School Department’s cuts to a rash of worker’s compensation claims within the custodial and maintenance departments.”I am not going to mince words. This is basically because of a work stoppage in the custodian and maintenance division,” he said. “A $1.8 million spike, nearly 40 percent of the maintenance department out on compensations claims is a disgrace. Because of these particularly outlandish actions, a work stoppage in the custodial and maintenance departments, we had to take drastic action. The entire city has had to take drastic action.”Responding to a request by Committee member Donna Coppola to table the cuts until a review of the maintenance budget is complete, Clancy urged members to vote for the cuts now, before the situation gets any worse.”We have to reduce the appropriation of every line item in the city budget,” he said. “Police and fire included. Every day this goes by it gets worse, and I don’t want to lay this over until (newly appointed Business Administrator Ke

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