Daily Hampshire Gazette - Established 1786
Cloudy
58°
Cloudy
Hi 69° | Lo 54°

Northampton school superintendent breaks down impact of budget cuts on arts, electives

  • Northampton City Councilor Marianne LaBarge, right, asks Brian Salzer, the school superintendent, a question during a budget hearing Tuesday in the Council Chambers.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Northampton City Councilor Marianne LaBarge, right, asks Brian Salzer, the school superintendent, a question during a budget hearing Tuesday in the Council Chambers.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Mark McLaughlin, the business manager for Northampton schools, listens during the Northampton City Council's budget hearing Tuesday in the Council Chambers.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Mark McLaughlin, the business manager for Northampton schools, listens during the Northampton City Council's budget hearing Tuesday in the Council Chambers.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Northampton City Councilor Pamela Schwartz, right, asks Brian Salzer, the school superintendent, a question during a budget hearing Tuesday in the Council Chambers.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Northampton City Councilor Pamela Schwartz, right, asks Brian Salzer, the school superintendent, a question during a budget hearing Tuesday in the Council Chambers.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Northampton City Councilors Jesse Adams, left, Eugene Tacy and Marianne LaBarge listen to Brian Salzer, the school superintendent, during a budget hearing Tuesday in the Council Chambers.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Northampton City Councilors Jesse Adams, left, Eugene Tacy and Marianne LaBarge listen to Brian Salzer, the school superintendent, during a budget hearing Tuesday in the Council Chambers.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Northampton School Superintendent Brian Salzer speaks Tuesday during the City Council's budget hearing in the Council Chambers. Mayor David Narkewicz listens, background.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Northampton School Superintendent Brian Salzer speaks Tuesday during the City Council's budget hearing in the Council Chambers. Mayor David Narkewicz listens, background.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Northampton City Councilor Marianne LaBarge, right, asks Brian Salzer, the school superintendent, a question during a budget hearing Tuesday in the Council Chambers.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Mark McLaughlin, the business manager for Northampton schools, listens during the Northampton City Council's budget hearing Tuesday in the Council Chambers.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Northampton City Councilor Pamela Schwartz, right, asks Brian Salzer, the school superintendent, a question during a budget hearing Tuesday in the Council Chambers.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Northampton City Councilors Jesse Adams, left, Eugene Tacy and Marianne LaBarge listen to Brian Salzer, the school superintendent, during a budget hearing Tuesday in the Council Chambers.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Northampton School Superintendent Brian Salzer speaks Tuesday during the City Council's budget hearing in the Council Chambers. Mayor David Narkewicz listens, background.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

“We are still offering band, art and photography, but we will have reduced sections,” Salzer told council members gathered for a budget hearing that also covered Forbes and Lilly libraries and the Northampton Arts Council.

When pressed to describe the impact of those cuts, Salzer said, “What it feels like to a family whose child can’t get into that section, for that family, it’s as good as cutting those classes.”

At Tuesday’s hearing, Salzer provided other details about the $773,403 in cuts the School Department has made to balance a $28.6 million budget for the fiscal year that begins in July.

He also addressed how school leaders plan to close an additional budget shortfall of $225,000 that resulted from higher-than-expected bids received last week on a new bus contract for the schools. The winning bid was higher than the $355,000 budgeted for school transportation next year, even though the School Department has eliminated regular busing to the high school — except for special education students — starting in September.

Salzer said the School Department is not planning more layoffs to make up the shortfall. Instead, he told council members, administrators will review positions now open to see which can be left unfilled next year. And they will consider making further busing cuts, perhaps extending to Grades 7 and 8, he said. The state requires busing be provided for students in kindergarten through sixth grade.

The School Committee will review those proposals when it meets at 7:15 p.m. Thursday and will vote on a new balanced budget, Salzer said.

At Tuesday’s hearing, several councilors asked about cuts to arts and electives at the high school.

“Public discussion has focused on cuts in the arts,” said City Council President William Dwight. “The frustrations we’re hearing is that people are concerned about the loss of programs that teach creative and critical thinking.”

Salzer said school leaders could not make cuts in subjects required by the state. But he added that arts programs top the list of items the School Department would restore if voters approve a $2.5 million Proposition 2½ override June 25.

If the override passes, Mayor David J. Narkewicz has proposed providing an additional $1 million to the schools, $726,000 to other city departments and $773,700 for a new stabilization fund.

If approved, the override would permanently add 79 cents for every $1,000 of assessed home valuation in Northampton, or about $235 annually for a single-family home valued at the city average of $297,323.

Salzer said school supplies also would be restored if the override is approved. He said the school department would also use additional funds from an override to create a reserve fund “so we don’t have to face this situation every year.”

Ward 3 Councilor Owen Freeman-Daniels asked whether it was common practice for the School Department to lay off teachers in the spring and hire them back in the fall.

“It was before I came,” Salzer replied. “I think it’s a terrible practice. It’s inefficient and it means you have to pay unemployment to some people so it ends up costing you in the long run.”

That’s why the administrative leadership team is now looking at positions that can be left open in city schools, Salzer said. “I will make the proposal that they not be classroom teachers,” he added. “They will be administrative and possibly custodial positions.”

Council members asked about cuts in special education positions in the elementary schools and several expressed concerns about the impact of eliminating busing to the high school.

“A pressure point in the community is that a lot of people in subsidized housing live some distance from school,” Dwight said.

“I hope you look at your budget and get busing back,” said Ward 6 Councilor Marianne LaBarge.

Comments
Legacy Comments0
There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.