School District to Request Voters Reinstate Money

February 6, 2015

by Jay Hobson

The Salem School Board, by a 4-1 vote at their last meeting, agreed to ask voters at the Feb. 5 deliberative session to reinstate a $424,186 reduction to the school district budget made by the budget committee.

The lone vote against restoration was budget committee representative to the board Michael Carney.

“In a $61 or $62 million operating budget, it may seem to most people that $400,000 is not a significant amount of money,” said Superintendent of Schools Michael Delahanty.

He said that the board was aware that the operating expenses had been reduced significantly before factoring in principal and interest on the debt that the district is dealing with.

Delahanty said that individuals have commented on the decline in enrollments that the district has faced and asked if a reduction in personnel costs was reflected in those numbers.

“We are planning to reduce our staff by a number of teachers, we’ve reduced our staff by over 40 over the past several years, but we can’t not provide the type of academic program and extracurricular programs we want our students to have,” Delahanty said.

He commented that the proposed budget presented to the budget committee was a thoughtful budget and a reasonable budget.

Board member Pamela Berry said that she supported the full restoration of the funds.

“I believe what we sent to the budget committee was a cut budget to begin with and was a sound budget,” Berry said.

Board member Peter Morgan said that if it wasn’t the will of the board to request full reinstatement, that there were at least four items that he wanted restored.

“A high school teacher, the wage pool for the non-bargaining unit people, the overall 100 series cut and the SEA retirement which is a contractual obligation,” Morgan said.

Bernard Campbell said that he supported the full restoration and didn’t feel “that the budget committee should drive decisions.”

Carney said that he would support whatever the board decided but was in favor of Morgan’s option of saving a few items but not all of the cuts.

“It’s a budgetary game; we budget this amount and return this amount,” Carney said.

According to Berry, “There is a fundamental difference between how we budget and the decisions the budget committee makes.  We worry about programming and what we are offering our students for classes where the budget committee looks at money and cuts.  It comes down to a fundamental difference on how we look at the budget.”