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4-2 vote OKs $62.6M school budget, reflecting resigned concern

The School Committee now "owns" the $62,637,124 fiscal 2017 school budget following a 4-2 vote Thursday, March 10. As they had in late January, Committee Chair Paul Schlichtman and Bill Hayner voted no. Jeff Thielman was absent.

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Accompanying the vote was a discussion of perception about the new budget. "There are no reductions to the base," Diane Johnson, the schools' chief financial officer said, adding that the distinction was important to draw for the public. "We're growing the way we like. We're not cutting" at the root of the system, as was the case in 2011, before the override

Those words did not keep Hayner or Schlichtman from voting no. In addition, Kirsi Allison-Ampe said she echoed Hayner's view but would vote yes.

"The high school was forgotten about this year," Jennifer Susse said, adding she is disappointed at the big classes resulting from the budget.

Countering Johnson's comment, she noted the many items that were removed. "Everything in red is a cut," she said, referring to spreadsheet pages one through four of this budget document >>

Hayner explains

Asked to expand on what he said March 10, Hayner wrote: "My vote was not a reflection of the work done on the budget, the superintendent and her staff did a great job.

Quote bar, red
"This budget needed to pass, but I also think the committee's vote needs to reflect the unfulfilled dreams that derive from the state's systemic underfunding of its obligation to local school districts."
      -- Paul Schlichtman

"I felt that it is the obligation of each committee member to inquire to the superintendent and the staff that compiled the budget to support the increases from last year. They did it to my satisfaction during budget meetings, school committee meetings and responses to my personal inquiries.

"I believe that once this process is done and the budget presented, is the budget we, the School Committee, should vote on and send forward.

"The final budget that was presented as the superintendent budget, for us to vote on, had cuts to fit within the town budget to go before the Town Meeting.

"I believe we should send the educational budget forward without these cuts, and if necessary let the Town Meeting cut or add to the bottom line. If they cut the bottom line, then we, the committee, with the advice of the superintendent make the cuts necessary to be in line with the number the Town Meeting has voted to appropriate."

Schlichtman weighs in

Schlichtman was also asked to explain his vote, and he wrote March 11:

"The budget reflects our hopes and dreams, as well as being the most important policy document we pass in any given year. With an increasing enrollment, and increasing demands on the system, I don't believe the budget is funded at a level that maintains our current level of service.

"This budget needed to pass, but I also think the committee's vote needs to reflect the unfulfilled dreams that derive from the state's systemic underfunding of its obligation to local school districts.

"Our costs are increasing, but the governor's budget bakes in a -0.22% deflation rate into the foundation-budget formula. The governor's disinvestment in public education leads directly to the reduction in services anticipated in this budget, and I wanted to cast a vote that expressed my dissatisfaction with the state's systemic underfunding our its constitutional obligation to the public schools.

"Again, I want to state that my No vote, was not a reflection of the work done on the budget."

Now that the School Committee has accepted the budge, it will be presented to Finance Committee on Wednesday, March 16.

Applause of social-studies head

In other business, the committee heard a rousing overview of the K-12 social-studies curriculum from Denny Conklin, who began as social studies director last fall.

His loquacious yet infectious style drew an ovation from those present as well as an enthusiastic review from member Jud Pierce.

In her report, Superintendent Kathleen Bodie reported that construction bids were received that day for work to renovate the Stratton School, beginning this summer. "I'm really pleased with where we are," she said, noting she saw no surprises, as had been the case when bids for modular classrooms were received earlier this winter.

The committee approved these school trips:

-- AHS 8th Annual Model Congress trip to University of Pennsylvania, March 31-April 3, 2016;

-- OMS/AHS trip to Arlington's sister city in Japan, July 2016; and

-- AHS sophomores and juniors, exchange in Melun, France, April 14-25, 2017, and home stay (French students in Arlington Oct. 14-25, 2016.

Feb. 2, 2016: School-budget number of $57.1M spurs concern, 5-2 vote

May 24, 2011: School Committee hears impact if an override passes or if it fails

Opinion, Jan. 20, 2016: A look at the manager's preliminary budget, overrides 
Jan. 19, 2016: Town increases budget share for schools, but there's room for more
Dec. 30, 2015: School Committee pushes back on shifting budget formula
March 30, 2015: Schools appeal for changes in foundation budget

This news summary was published Friday, March 11, 2016.

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