By: Tom Duggan – 6-12-16
There is a war brewing in Methuen over Mayor Zanni’s proposed city budget, which School Committeeman Nick DiZoglio says “shortchanges our students” and “is a disgrace in a community like Methuen.”
While Mayor Zanni proposes an increase in the school budget, not a decrease, DiZoglio called the budget measure a “cut” for the schools.
“Because of the increase in costs, a 1% increase is really a cut,” DiZoglio added.
Asked where he wants the mayor to come up with the extra money that he and other school committee members want for schools, DiZoglio said it wasn’t his concern.
“He’s just going to have to find it. I don’t know where he’s going to get it, that’s his budget and that’s his job. What I need is for him to give us a budget to keep our schools funded and going in the right direction. The whole committee is on the same page.”
“It’s not that I don’t care where he gets it. Obviously, we don’t want him to take money from police and fire. Its the fact that this mayor put us in a situation that we need to worry about our education or where our kids are going to be next year. I will not implement user fees or a parent tax. The Mayor has to come up with the money, that is what he was elected to do.”
DiZoglio says that Mayor Zanni has refused to work with the school committee on the proposed budget, failed to show up at their emergency budget meeting last week, “and to add insult to injury he sent us this memo, that’s it, just a memo, saying what administrators we can cut without laying off teachers. But, with his budget there’s no way we can manage this without laying off teachers. He should have been at that meeting. How do you work with a mayor who doesn’t want to work with you? That’s not what I signed up for. I signed up to grow our school system to a level 2 status and preferably increase the status of our schools even further.”
In the June print edition of The Valley Patriot, School Committeeman DJ Deeb echoed DiZoglio’s concerns saying he too, will not vote to approve Zanni’s budget.
“I will not support the Mayor’s current proposed budget as it stands unless the other city departments are also level-funded. Budget reductions need to be shared across the board with all city departments. It should be noted that this is still a work in progress and the city council has final say over the city budget.”
Several school committee members say they plan on taking Mayor Zanni to task at Monday’s committee meeting. Zanni sits as chair of the committee.
“I plan to put it right to him Monday night,” DiZoglio promised.
“It’s absurd that the DPW, police and fire, are all getting substantial increases in their budget while the schools are not getting what we need to keep up with cost increases. This at a time when the city budget has increased 5%. It’s just not acceptable. I don’t accept it, and I’m not going to speak for the rest of the committee, but I’m willing to bet that they are not going to accept it either.”
Emails circulated to schools employees on Friday and Saturday called on school officials to rally school workers and parents to attend the Monday night school committee meeting.
“The budget is looking dire and suddenly they are talking layoffs,” The e-mail said. “The Superintendent would like a show of support at the meeting. The Mayor wants to decrease the [school] budget by $3M over last year because we have over $2M in federal sped (special education) mandates that need to be funded. So, Basically, the schools would be level funded in total but $2M moves to sped, which means teacher layoffs if it passes. Meanwhile the city budget is increasing 5.5%.
The school committee meets Monday night at 6:30PM at the high school media room.