By BRIDGET TURCOTTE
SAUGUS — Town Meeting members passed an $80,397,000 town budget that includes $28.5 million for the School Department, leaving a gap of more than $750,000.
The School Committee originally requested a $29.6 million budget and Town Manager Scott Crabtree came back with a recommendation for $1.6 million less. After making adjustments to the department’s critical needs, Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi said the district would still face a $900,000 shortfall.
Ultimately, residents supported the Finance Committee’s recommendation, which reduced the shortfall by $100,000.
The decision will leave the School Committee to vote on cost containments presented by DeRuosi that include closing the Ballard Early Childhood Center and moving the students to the Veterans Memorial Elementary School. Relocating the program would save the district between $140,000 and $145,000, he said.
The Ballard students would use two classrooms and a first and a third grade class would see an increase in size to 27 and 28 students. DeRuosi plans to allow parents to opt to send their children to other schools with smaller class sizes and expects the numbers will drop by the start of the school year.
The plan also includes not replacing seven retiring employees — six teachers and a nurse — and cutting one elementary school teacher. Six paraprofessional positions would also be eliminated to save the district between $98,000 and $114,000.
A custodian and clerk who work at Ballard will be transfered to fill open positions from retiring employees at Veterans Memorial. The Ballard nurse will move to the high school to fill one of two vacant positions. A second vacant nursing position will not be filled. A kindergarten teacher at Veterans Memorial will be moved to fill an open position at Lynnhurst Elementary School.
A Municipal Town Department Operating Budget of $51,822,000 was also passed. The budget includes a $6.7 million allocation for the Saugus Police Department, $4.9 million for the Fire Department, $4.5 million for the Department of Public Works, $211,000 for the Department of Planning and Economic Development, and $641,000 for the Saugus Public Library.
Among the highest salaries are the chief of police at $160,000; the fire chief at $146,000; the town manager at $128,000; and the deputy fire chief at $116,00.
Bridget Turcotte can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte