MAYOR SAYS VOWS HE WILL NOT SUPPORT A PROP. 2 1/2 OVERRIDE
June 15, 2016 – With Methuen Mayor Zanni proposing a 1% increase in the school budget, Superintendent of Schools Judy Scannell is threatening to make staffing cuts saying the increase is not enough. Superintendent Scannell says the 1% increase will result in eliminating four police officers in the Methuen schools, as well as 54 teachers and staff.
“The situation has required me to make some unanticipated and difficult decisions regarding the district’s programming and personnel,” Scannell said in a memo to the Methuen Police.
“I regret to inform you that a reduction in force is necessary, and includes 4 School Resource Officers for the 2016-2017 school year. One full time [police officer] is budgeted for the high school for FY 2017.”
“We have made many reductions in various areas of the operating budget in anticipation of a less than idea budget allocation for the 2016-2017 school year. Despite our efforts, we are still faced with making further reductions that will unfortunately include staff positions (54 teachers, support staff, etc).”
School Committeeman Jana Dinatale says that the entire situation makes her sad.
“It is truly a sad day for Methuen families as we keep hearing of school staffing cuts due to inadequate funding. I am certain that our families will accept nothing less than secure facilities for their children; in my opinion that is not accomplished without an officer in each of our schools. I hope that the ongoing discussions this afternoon between the Mayor and Superintendent resolve these issues so that Methuen children will continue to have access to the educational opportunities they so deserve.”
For his part, Methuen Police Chief Joe Solomon says he is hoping to avoid any staff reductions in the schools. “I’m working diligently with the mayor to do everything in our power to maintain police officer positions in the schools and I would hope that other department heads would be doing the exact same thing in their budget. The last thing that should be cut is police positions, especially given the threats schools face every day.
MAYOR ZANNI SAYS NO OVERRIDES!
“To increase the school budget I would have to take $1.3M out of the city’s stabilization fund, and that still doesn’t give them what they are looking for,” Mayor Zanni told The Valley Patriot Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m at $72.6M and they want $73.7M or $73.9M. So, we are still under a million dollars from where they want to be, and I don’t have the money. In order to get that money they would have to ask the city council. We are taxed to the 2 1/2 levy limit and I am not going to support a tax override.”
Asked why teachers are being laid off first, instead of other cuts being proposed, Mayor Zanni said that he didn’t know.
“That’s the choice of superintendent. You will have to ask her. Teachers are the backbone of any school system. I proposed a way to cut the budget without laying off teachers. She wants to go in another direction. Why not cut administrators?” he asked.
In the last year, the Methuen schools have hired five deans at over $100,000 each.
“That’s $400,000-$500,000 right there. Why cut teachers rather than administration?”
“Those administrators have only been here two or three years, not 20. My thought is, I’d rather see those cuts. She is making other cuts, she’s cutting teachers, but I think teacher cuts or staff cuts of any kind should be the last resort.”
Zanni said he is going to I am going to give the school committee the budget at tonight’s school committee budget meeting “and they are going to have to live with that.”
Zanni also says that he is trying to prevent the closing of another fire station this summer by increasing the fire department by four new positions.
“If we put in four more firefighters on, we get more medicare money and we can cut back on overtime. In the long run, that medicare money goes into the stabilization fund. In 2010, the city took a 10% cut and the schools got a 3% raise. So, we are all one city, we shouldn’t be playing one side of the city against the other.”
School Committeemen DJ Deeb and Nick DiZoglio both say they will not support the mayor’s proposed budget, adding that a 1% increase is inadequate and that a 3% increase will level fund the schools to meet the increase in costs of the 2016-2017 budget year.
“I’m not doing it. I am not supporting a budget that cuts teachers,” DiZoglio said. “The mayor is giving significant increases to other departments and the city budget has grown 5%. There’s no need to cut anyone.”
DiZoglio said he did not know how much had been given in raises to administration and staff in the last year.
The school committee meets tonight (Wednesday) at 6PM at the high school.