Members of the Everett city council and school committee—at least those who bothered to show up—got their first official look at the new city and school department budgets Monday night and they can’t be blamed if they had sticker shock. The school department’s new budget is a pricey nine percent higher than the current year, coming in at $81.4 million.
No one on either the council or school committee questioned schools Superintendent Fred Foresteire’s plan to layoff 103 employees including 67 teachers before the new school year starts unless it gets another infusion of cash from the city. That plan—with those exact numbers—has been told to certain school department employees. Several of those employees told The Everett Stimulus. about it on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals from Foresteire.
City of Everett CFO Eric Demas agreed the nine-percent increase is substantial. “It’s a big number, for sure,” he said. Interestingly, in his presentation Monday night, Demas said the bond rating companies, while still giving the city an AA+ rating, labeled Everett’s financial outlook as “stable”–and not better–in part because of the multiple supplemental appropriations to the school department. Such appropriations would not be coming in the new budget, Demas said.
City Council Michael McLaughlin expressed concern about the large school budget increase but noted it’s the start of the process. “I look forward to the next few weeks and really fully understanding the budget and how the school department got to this point and understanding the need for the increase at such a high rate,” he said.
Demas also took issue with a report in a local newspaper about homecoming events and whether they would be funded. “The mayor is very upset about [the report]. There should be no consideration given to it,” he said.
The Everett Leader-Herald, a notoriously anti-Mayor DeMaria “newspaper” that is deep in Superintendent Foresteire’s pocket, published a story citing “a city hall source” that said homecoming “is apparently being axed in order to save money.” Demus strongly disputed that account.
Councilors McLaughlin and Fred Capone tried to get to the bottom of the homecoming uncertainty by placing on the agenda a resolution asking for the mayor or Demas to come to the council’s next Ways and Means committee meeting to clarify it. The item was “referred back to sponsor,” meaning no action was taken.
“[The homecoming situation] should have been spoken about openly and to discuss all options and possible funding sources to keep this day going for community pride…[it’s something] you can’t put a price tag on,” Mclaughlin said.
The city operating budget comes in at $59.4 million which is a four-percent increase. However, when fixed costs such as waste removal and electricity are factored in, it’s a two-percent increase.
A series of hearings will now be held over the course of the next month.