The Everett Stimulus. is a new blog that takes a deeper dive into the politics and general happenings of Everett. Patrick Scully is a veteran political and media analyst and writer. He is the former communication and media director for the Senate Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly. He also writes the national blog, The Political Stimulus.
More than a hundred Everett school department employees—more than half of them teachers—are hanging on every word from school department and city officials, waiting to see if they’ll have jobs come next week. It’s the result of changes in state funding formulas, no doubt. But it’s also a result of unnecessary brinksmanship on the part of the school superintendent in the wake of what some are calling questionable spending decisions.
The city will likely cover most of the needed funds—the city council meets Monday night to consider an appropriation of $4.5 million toward the problem. But how did it get to this point? Why did it have to come to the school system notifying 110 employees—including 58 teachers—they’d be laid off on the 16th before there was some urgency to the issue?
Teachers, staff, students and parents gathered in the high school library Monday night to try to get information on a reported $8 million budget shortfall. There is agreement that the budget mess has resulted in part from the state changing the way it reimburses the state for certain costs based on the number of students deemed economically disadvantaged. But one would think this change wasn’t made last week. Where was the planning?
There has been grumbling from residents and some city officials about questionable spending decisions by the schools. For instance, why did the school department spend money on an elaborate homecoming parade followed by a fireworks display? Sure, we all love school spirit, and who doesn’t like fireworks? But at the expense of staff positions for the rest of the school year? Priorities count.
Some of the shortfall comes from capital improvements made by the schools that have not yet been reimbursed by the city. There is said to an agreement that the city would cover those costs but neither the mayor nor any schools representatives has come to the city council looking for an appropriation. That will finally happen on Monday, four days before the layoffs take effect.
Everett Schools Superintendent Fred Foresteire has unusual authority and discretion over the school budget. Basically, the city council approves a number and Foresteire spends it as he wishes. That may (or may not) have worked in the past. However, the superintendent coming to the city and saying, in essence, “We need more money” doesn’t work when money is tight.
Some folks seem to think there is some endless pot of money from Wynn Resorts because the casino is going up. There isn’t. And the real money from the host agreement doesn’t start flowing until the resort casino is open next year.