The Board of Education voted to recommend a six percent increase to the budget to the City Council was well as the consolidation of the student populations of two elementary schools.
The 5-2 vote came after a dispute between President Bill Morse and board member Margaret Curtin over whether the board could recommend a merger of city and school financial services as part of the proposal. Curtin said the matter fell within the budget’s financial purview, while Morse said it was a structural matter demanding more public notice and review.
The budget proposal seeks to increase the budget from the approximately $39.8 million allocated for the 2012 fiscal year. The City Council is obligated to fund the school budget at least to its current level, and last year it .
The request includes a 4.18 percent increase to salaries. Maria Whalen, the district’s director of business and finance, said this takes into account a contractual two percent salary increase for union members and funding for positions previously preserved by federal stimulus money and the state’s Education Job Fund.
Other items include an increase of $87,000 for legal services due to upcoming contractual negotiations and funding for a part-time custodian at the Central Office.
The board also recommended the of the and into the latter building for the 2012-2013 school year. This is projected to save $597,000 in utility and staff costs, as some staff will transition to positions budgeted for in the . The plan is also expected to save the city in rental costs of the modular units currently housing Nathan Hale students and in-kind maintenance costs, while the savings will be offset by an early termination of the modular leases and the expense to move students and staff into Harbor School.
Morse previously said that the budget increase and school consolidation will but will not allow the district to start any new initiatives.
Financial services issue
Prior to the vote on the budget, Curtin motioned to approve the consolidation of the finance departments in the city and school district. The matter has been before an administrative services consolidation committee, and Mayor Daryl Finizio for such a phased plan on Monday.
Morse replied that he felt recommendation of the proposal to the City Council was “a bit premature.” He said no public notice had been given that such an issue would come before the board, and that more discussion was needed on the proposal.
“This has been discussed since 2003, and nothing has been done about it,” said Curtin.
Dr. James Mitchell, a representative from the state Department of Education who has been attending the meetings, said he agreed that more information and public notice would be needed before the board could take action on a consolidation of financial services.
“This would seem to go beyond the budget as a structural item,” said Mitchell.
Curtin sought to move the question, but Morse said he would not call a vote because he considered the motion out of order. Curtin said she could challenge Morse’s ruling, but Morse maintained his opinion after a brief recess to review Robert’s Rules of Order.
“I’m going to have to take this to a legal counsel,” said Curtin.
“There’s been no notice to this,” said Morse. “That is why the motion is out of order.”
The matter briefly returned after a failed attempt to adjourn when board member Barbara Curtin motioned to reconsider the vote and was seconded by board member Delanna Muse. However, Major withdrew her motion after Superintendent Nicholas Fischer said the board had a legal obligation to present a budget to the City Council by Thursday and that Curtin’s proposal could be addressed prior to the final adoption of the 2013 fiscal year budget.