A month ago, an epically dramatic city council meeting resulted in the city transferring $5 million to the school department to avoid some 110 layoffs. At that meeting, DeMaria administration representatives insisted the $5 million was the maximum it could take from its General Stabilization Fund without endangering the city’s bond rating. Apparently, that’s not a concern anymore as the mayor is asking the city council to approve another $500,000 to the schools.
Things evidently have changed since that contentious Feb. 12th meeting. At the time, schools Superintendent Fred Foresteire said the schools were facing a $9 million shortfall and if the city didn’t pony up the money, there would be serious layoffs. Parents, students, teachers, staff and their supporters were whipped up into a frenzy with protests at city hall and a packed house at the meeting.
Administration officials balked at the $9 million and instead requested the city council transfer $5 million which was eventually approved. The city made it crystal clear that anything more than the $5 million out of the General Stabilization Fund and the city’s bond rating would be in jeopardy.
So how is it the administration is now asking the council to transfer an additional $500,000 to the schools? City Council President Peter Napolitano, known as a strong education advocate, said he’s not sure how the mayor’s office found the additional money but it’s welcome. “In the end, we still have to educate the kids. Arguing over the dollar amount doesn’t change that,” he said.
The mayor’s original position wasn’t the only one to change. Foresteire told The Everett Stimulus. immediately after the Feb. 12th meeting that the $5 million would only stave off layoffs until the end of the month (Feb.). He just as quickly changed his tune and said he would not be back to the city council looking for more money this year. At least that part is true as the mayor has requested the $500,000 for Foresteire—he won’t have to come to the council.
At the Feb. 12th meeting, Councilor Michael McLaughlin suggested a more incremental approach for the additional school funding for exactly this reason—he wanted the council, which is solely responsible for city appropriations, to have a better handle on the situation as the rest of the school year progressed. But the atmosphere at the meeting was a bit of a mob mentality with people talking over each other, booing, cheering and Foresteire gesturing and angrily speaking to the mayor. McLaughlin’s effort failed but he remains committed to full funding of the schools.
On Monday night, no councilor seemed curious how another $500,000 has suddenly become available. They sent the request to the council’s ways and means committee. They likely will reconsider the request at its next meeting on the 26th.