The Education Committee of the Representative Town Meeting voted last Wednesday night to seek restoration of $250,000 to the Board of Education budget. This money would be in addition to the $500,000 restored by the Board of Finance earlier this month. In a vote that was five to two with one abstention, the committee's motion recommended the 2010-11 school budget increase from $96,079,659 to $96,329,659.
"I think taxpayers would be willing to pay a little bit more to have the best schools," said Education Committee Member Eileen Flug who voted in favor of restoration. She referred to a petition that garnered 700 signatures asking for the funds to be restored. "I'm interested in having the best education not the cheapest education in our DRG [District Reference Group]. Most people in town are concerned about losing the level of services."
Jonathan Steinberg, another member of the Education Committee, said that he felt uncomfortable voting yes at this time because he wanted to make sure what the situation was on the town side before committing to restoration for the BOE .
"There should be a shared sacrifice across town," Steinberg said.
The Committee, chaired by Velma Heller, discussed during the meeting the budget with BOE members and Superintendent Elliott Landon. BOE Chair Don O'Day laid out the budget process as it currently stands. He reminded the Committee that the BOE originally requested a salary and benefit driven increase of $2 million or 2.13 percent for the 2010-11 school year. The Board of Finance had voted to reduce the budget request by $500,000 but the BOE is seeking full restoration in order for the school system to maintain its current level of programs.
"A 2.13 percent increase maintains programs and services while a 1.6 percent does not," wrote O'Day in a presentation to the committees. "We must avoid a slow erosion to the stellar educational experiences currently available to our students, never to be regained once lost."
Topics discussed at the meeting included the possibility of increasing class size, working with the city on consolidation of services, the possibility of rental revenue, use of buses for private schools and special ed students and the importance of maintaining technology in the classrooms. The Education Committee will prepare a report with its recommendation which will be sent to all members prior to the meeting of the RTM in May. On May 4, the entire RTM will convene to vote on a final amount for the BOE budget. If the RTM approves the Education Committee's proposal the BOE will receive $1.75 million more next year.
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