The budget battle between the town departments and school department reached a rare level this week with the town manager saying the schools had violated the town charter by not giving him a budget figure.
Town Manager Buzz Stapczynski presented his 183-page recommended budget to the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee on Monday. His recommended budget reflects a 3.32 percent increase for the School Committee — $2.2 million on top of last year’s $65.9 million figure — and a matching 3.32 percent increase for every other town department — totaling $1.1 million over last year’s appropriated $34.2 million budget.
In protest of Stapczynski’s recommendation for the school department, school leaders did not supply a school budget figure of their own.
In a one-page summary, the School Committee and Superintendent Marinel McGrath listed this year’s budget number as “See narrative below” and then wrote that they “are not providing the FY14 budget number to the town manager” for three reasons:
1) While the current budget process has worked in the past, the recent economic downturn “necessitates a new approach” as “it has become clear that revenues may never re-set to prior levels;”
2) Previous meetings between the Selectmen, Finance and School committees have “been thoughtfully engaged in discussions surrounding town priorities” with respect to both capital projects and collective bargaining obligations. “Currently, however, the town manager’s budget parameters do not reflect that discussion;”
3) After cutting 3.8 percent from their budget in expenses alone, an overall increase of 3.65 percent still would be needed to cover the costs of the schools’ contractual obligations. Stapczynski’s 3.32 percent increase makes it “impossible in FY14 to (a) maintain level services (b) meet compliance regulations and (c) make specific and sustainable investments in our clearly-defined Strategic Plan.”
When asked to speak to their decision at the dual-board meeting Monday, McGrath said she and the School Committee “actually do have a budget.”