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Saugus super presents gloomy budget

SAUGUS – The magic number necessary to keep Saugus schools running at their present level of service is $1 million.That’s the simple arithmetic Superintendent Richard Langlois presented Thursday in his report to the School Committee.According to the superintendent, ensuring the quality of education in the Saugus public schools hinges on the outcome of next Monday’s Special Town Meeting and, ultimately, whether voters pass a one-time special assessment of their property value to pay for $1.1 million in snow-and-ice removal costs racked up during the harsh winter.If the special assessment passes at an April town election, the snow-and-ice bill gets paid, leaving other funds available to help satisfy the school budget for fiscal 2012.Should the measure fail, Langlois told the committee the schools must brace for change, especially a decrease in services.Despite the downbeat outlook, Langlois was given hope by Town Manager Andrew Bisignani’s comments to the Finance Committee on Wednesday. “The town manager said he does not want to lose any personnel and neither do I,” he said, adding the town manager inferred the special assessment would make available funds, the lion’s share of which would go toward school-related expenses.”Target is $1 million to keep what we have and keep our staff,” he said.Langlois listed the services likely to be lost if the special assessment isn’t passed. Among them: staff who deal with at-risk students would not be available, nor would teachers who prepare students for college. Classes could be shifted or combined. The ability to play sports could be curtailed if athletic fees were imposed. Early-childhood programs would be eliminated.”And we would be unable to meet all the mandates,” said Langlois, referring to Education Reform.”We may be looking at mandated busing. Without quality teachers, we will never ever move this district ahead.”The Finance Committee has asked the School Department to present its $25 million budget on April 6.The School Committee on Thursday also discussed the impact of abiding by state mandates to send students out of the district if the desired services cannot be provided. According to Langlois, at least one Saugus student attends a vocational school in Lowell, costing the town for transportation and the loss of the per-pupil funds.The town has managed to educate its special-needs students within the district, saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, in recent months, another problem has surfaced ? what to do about students whose parents want them to attend a virtual high school instead of Saugus High.

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