The School Budget – There’s a big difference between outright cuts and reallocations

On the surface, it would appear that the Winthrop Town Council slashed $240,000 from the School Department budget for the 2010-11 academic year, but that’s not the entire story.

Normally, a cut like that would result in teachers layoffs or a loss of programs, but Council President Jeffrey Turco, who made the motion for the decreased budget, explained his rationale directly and seven of his colleagues on the Council supported him (Councillor Nick DelVento cast the lone dissenting vote).

Turco first took into account the money from the savings ($80,000) that the School Department will realize from moving its administrative offices from the E.B. Newton School to Town Hall. Turco said he will hold the School Department true to its publicly stated word that it will vacate the E.B. Newton School by an August 31 deadline.

Turco then said there will be additional savings because seven senior teachers (who are high up on the pay scale ladder) will be retiring from the Winthrop school system and will be replaced by junior teachers at a lesser salary.

The $240,000 cut from the budget will be placed in the Town Council reserve fund and should the School Department need the money for the hiring of teachers at a higher salary level or, as Councilor Jim Letterie suggested, hiring additional teachers to create smaller class sizes, the money could be obtained from the reserve fund.

Councilor DelVento was clearly irked by the timing of Mr. Turco’s motion, coming as it did late in the budget process and after the Advisory Board had given its recommendation for the budget, and we understand his concerns that the finance subcommittee should have been alerted in advance of Mr. Turco’s intentions.

But the $240,000 cut isn’t really a cut, but a reallocation of the funds that will still be there if the School Department makes a case that it needs the funds for the coming year, as it will be doing for example, by using some of the money to facilitate the School Department’s move to Town Hall, which has an estimated cost of $20,000.

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