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School Budget Debate to Take Center Stage at Wenham Town Meeting

Wenham Town Meeting begins at 1 p.m. at Buker Elementary School, where Article 2 - the budget - will include separate budget proposals from both the School Committee and Board of Selectmen that are $500,000 apart.

The School Committee voted again Thursday to support its original budget, sending to Wenham Town Meeting a School Committee budget $500,000 higher than the school budget supported by Selectmen.

The school budget, which is part of the entire town budget, is Article 2 on the Town Meeting warrant.

begins at 1 p.m. at the gymnasium. A quorum of 141 voters – or 5 percent of the town’s registered voters - is required to conduct business.

Don Gallant, chairman of the School Committee’s Finance Working Group, said that the full School Committee met with the subcommittee before the School Committee's regular meeting on Thursday night.

After an extensive discussion, Gallant said the committee voted 6-2 to stand by its $27.65 million budget for fiscal 2012.

“At the end we voted 6-2 to stay with the we already approved,” Gallant said.

Selectmen in both towns are citing an expectation that this year’s budget will be underspent by more than $800,000 and state aid to education is expected to increase, among other reasons.

In an interview this week, School Committee Chairman Alexa McCloughan said without the higher budget number she couldn’t rule out possible service cuts and teacher cuts, although that’s not what is proposed in this existing budget.

Because the “giveback” would come from the school district’s excess and deficiency, or E and D account, it’s possible that it may not be large enough to cover unexpected expenses.

“We have not made any decisions to cut programs,” McCloughan said. But she said if the “giveback” remains at $500,000 she’s more concerned that cuts could be possible. “Any time you take money away you put things at risk.”

The Wenham Selectman and Finance Committee, in a two-page memo attached to this story, have outlined myriad of reasons for its continued support of a $500,000 giveback.

“The FinCom’s opinion is that the key question for voters is whether they want the (School Committee) to have over $1 million at its discretion, or whether voters want to have a say if the amount required is above $630,000,” the memo said.

Other articles of interest at Saturday’s Wenham Town Meeting will likely include Article 9, to consider whether will continue; Article 14 about on the car barn lot and Article 16, asking voters to have a say on the future of the.

Jay Burnham May 07, 2011 at 11:42 AM
Just once I would like to hear facts instead of spin. Enough with the "cuts COULD be possible" and the "putting things at risk" and the "possible teacher cuts". The same "risks" existred last year and the school district ended up with a surplus of more than $1 million. The only teacher cut is a LATIN TEACHER because there never was a Latin teacher, but of course the SALARY for a Latin teacher remains in the school budget. Since the district underspent last year's budget by more than $1 million, why is it too much to ask for them to accept $500k less from the beleagured taxpayers this year? Thanks go out to the Selectmen and Finance Committees of BOTH towns for unanimously supporting a reasonable, proper, fair and honest budget for the schools. Now it's up to you, the voters, to concur and do the right thing. Please attend Town Meeting and exercise your right.
Tracy May 07, 2011 at 01:11 PM
All voters know the value of a strong, steady school system to our towns. People are really worried about 2013 -- yes, even the fincoms. We all want to know there's going to be continuity in the education of our children.

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