Northampton School Committee OK’s budget, staves off layoffs

  • Northampton High School STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Published: 4/18/2023 2:55:08 PM
Modified: 4/18/2023 2:54:57 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The School Committee passed its proposed budget for the upcoming 2024 fiscal year, managing to stave off the worst of originally proposed budget cuts thanks to $1.2 million in emergency funding from the city.

“It was a tough decision for these past few months, but we’re happy that we’re working all together for this budget for this year,” said interim superintendent Jannell Pearson-Campbell at last Thursday’s School Committee meeting.

She said the committee, along with school administrators and the Northampton Association of School Employees, will working on a plan to stabilize the budget in future years.

Before the influx of emergency funds, the school district’s $37 million budget was facing a $2.3 million deficit and job cuts to various positions across schools. The use of emergency funds, combined with pandemic relief funding, has narrowed the deficit gap to $649,000, and the district now intends only to remove jobs via attrition, by not filling current open positions or positions of those retiring.

Other cuts in the budget include $22,446 reduction in school software and textbooks at Northampton High School, and cuts toward expenses for teachers and other staff to attend conferences and training seminars while employed in the district.

However, several committee members noted they felt that the budget had been presented in a hard-to-understand manner, making it difficult to discern where exactly funding was and was not going and thus they felt reluctant to vote to approve it.

“Every time we meet, I’ve been saying that I’m not understanding the numbers, and I’ve been asking to see what we are adding right next to what we are cutting, and as far as I can tell I haven’t seen that,” said committee member Dina Levi.

Committee member Meg Robbins agreed, saying the way the budget was presented was not as clear as it is in other neighboring school districts.

“I’m not happy about approving a budget that I can’t confirm the numbers on,” she said. “I’m very uncomfortable in moving forward without having a structure that helps us do the work that will help us to do this better.”

Ultimately, the budget passed by a 7-3 vote. The three dissenters were Levi, Michael Stein and Margaret Miller, who voted no after a proposed amendment to reduce cost-of-living adjustment increases for nonunion staff from 5% to 3% failed prior to the budget vote.

Pearson-Campbell said the increase was necessary to retain administrative staff, noting that 16 people had left the administration prior to her arrival as interim superintendent.

“It took me a long time to find administrators this year to fit the needs of Northampton,” she said. “Salary-wise, it’s hard to find good people.”

Pearson-Campbell will complete her interim position at the start of July, where she will be replaced by incoming superintendent Portia Bonner, who is being tasked by the mayor to produce a school plan with additional spending reductions by December, earlier than usual, for the 2025 fiscal year. The mayor wants next year’s budget to avoid relying on one-time and pandemic-related funds. The city and school committee have also stated their intention to work with state legislators to secure more funding for the district.

With the approval of the budget, it now goes to the mayor’s office to be a part of the city’s overall budget for the next fiscal year, to be voted on by the Northampton City Council tentatively next month. 

Alexander MacDougall can be reached at


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