LYNN — The School Committee approved the district’s $159.3 million fiscal year 2020 budget and authorized School Superintendent Dr. Patrick Tutwiler to make four new administrative hires on Thursday night.
The Lynn Public Schools budget, a 7.25 increase over last year’s school spending of $148.5 million, is part of the city’s $367.93 million FY20 budget that was approved by the City Council earlier this month.
“I think it’s a reflection of the collaboration of the School Committee and district administration coming together in support of the work ahead next year,” said Tutwiler of the budget passing.
Tutwiler said the school budget could potentially have to be amended if there is an increase in state aid to the schools when the state budget numbers are finalized. If necessary, he said that would likely come before the committee in the fall.
The school budget uses numbers from Gov. Charlie Baker’s proposed state budget, which provides $182.9 million in Chapter 70 aid to the city, which is the major program of state aid to the schools and is a $15.1 million increase over last year’s allocation. The large increase is due to a proposed revamp of the state’s foundation budget formula and the city could potentially see a higher allocation with larger numbers proposed in the state Senate budget.
Tutwiler has said the budget exceeds the district’s required net school spending by about $1.9 million. The city’s net minimum contribution for school spending is $52.16 million, based on a required net school spending for Lynn of $234.95 million.
Budgeted in FY20 are four new administrative hires the School Committee authorized on Thursday night, which will account for at least $346,438 in salaries.
With the approval, Tutwiler will hire an assistant director of English Learner Education (ELE), assistant director of social-emotional learning (SEL), out-of-district program specialist and payroll/accounts payable manager.
Final salaries will have to be impact bargained with the Lynn School Administrators Union, but base salaries for the two assistant director positions will be $92,760, the out-of-district program specialist will make at least $86,499 and the payroll manager will be paid $74,419.
School Committee members were largely in favor of the first three positions, but there was some debate about whether to approve a payroll manager, when nearly $75,000 worth of a salary could instead be expended on other needs in the district.
The finance position was the only one of the four which didn’t pass unanimously. In a 4-1 vote with two members of the panel absent, School Committee member Lorraine Gately was the opposing vote.
Gately said she’s heard concerns from her constituents about the proposal to expend more than $300,000 worth of salaries on four new hires. With teachers at the secondary level saddled with large class sizes, she’d love to see funding go toward having more management of those classrooms, and said the payroll manager hire could wait a year.
Kevin McHugh, school business administrator, requested the position based on what he described as an overtaxed finance department that consists of himself and one other person.
Since the payroll manager position was eliminated in 2009, he’s been overseeing payroll directly and hiring someone else would free him up to focus on other responsibilities, which includes balancing the budget, McHugh said.
“It’s my job to correct whatever needs to be corrected,” McHugh said. “(We’re) at a crossroads where we need another position to run the operation the way it needs to be.”
Much of the dissent was around the payroll manager not being a direct service to students job, but School Committee member Jared Nicholson, who voted in favor, said it was important to view the budget in terms of the impact it was having on students.
About 90 percent of the new positions budgeted are directly interacting with students, Nicholson said, which is a “good sign of where our priorities are.”
Although committee member Brian Castellanos voted in favor, he said he did so because McHugh identified the position as a need, but felt nearly $75,000 of funding could go toward meeting other needs such as hiring social workers, crossing guards and teachers’ aides.
The committee opted to amend part of the budget as part of its approval, by reducing the superintendent’s “to be determined positions” line item by $59,794 to restore a clerical position at Breed Middle School, which has been cut and would increase the school’s clerks to three.
“Many of the clerks’ jobs have been cut, which is a huge concern and has left many schools short-handed,” said School Committee vice-chair Donna Coppola. “(I’m) seeing clerk jobs being taken away to put in management jobs and it concerns me.”
Tutwiler has said the budget allows him to meet some of his district improvement goals, including alleviating middle school overcrowding with a new eighth grade discovery academy, implementing a K-5 social-emotional learning curriculum and getting closer to state compliance with meeting the needs of English Language Learners and students on Individualized Programs (IEPs).