When Gus Martucci rushed out of the June 1 Town Council meeting following its vote to take $240,000 from the School Department budget, he wasn’t just leaving the Joseph Harvey Room.
He was leaving his seat on the Winthrop School Committee as well.
Martucci, a committee member for six years, delivered his resignation letter to Chairperson Pat Milano, delaying his action until midnight Friday so he could present diplomas to graduates at the Class of 2010 commencement ceremony.
Martucci’s resignation was in direct response to the Council’s 8-1 vote to take $240,000 from the School Department budget for Fiscal Year 2011 and transfer it to the Council reserve fund.
“I was hoping that the Council would come to their senses and not do what they did,” said Martucci.
The Council’s decision to take the $80,000 that will be saved by the School Department’s move from the EB Newton School to Town Hall was the final straw for Martucci.
“We [School Department] do want to consolidate with the town, but my feeling is that if we leave the building [EB Newton] and the building remains open, there is still $60,000 – $80,000, that someone is going to have to come up with to keep that building going. If the town doesn’t have any money, where are they going to get the $60,000-$80,000 to continue the run the building. I think it’s going to come from our budget. No one has told me any different. Why don’t we just stay there? To me, just wait until we get some type of use for it.”
Martucci said he was bothered by Council President Jeffrey Turco “not respecting the School Committee’s vote to mothball the building.” (Turco also sits on the School Committee in his capacity as council president).
“For the Council to arbitrarily take the $80,000 away from the School Department until we do what they want – you’re just saying why have a School Committee,” said Martucci.
“It’s the same thing with the teacher salary differential (the Council also voted to take $130,000 from the school budget because seven senior teachers are retiring and new teachers will be hired at lesser salaries),” said Martucci.
Martucci said President Turco’s motion for the $240,000 transfer coincides with the amount that would represent a two percent salary increase for the teachers.
“It’s funny how that number came up,” said Martucci. “This [salaries of school employees) is another thing that the School Department decides on – as an elected body, this is what they do. If the Council is going to second guess and undermine what the School Committee does and all the work that goes in behind the scenes, such as doing research and finding out what the numbers are, that’s not a good thing. We have been negotiating with the teachers for two years on the contract.”
Martucci feels the Council is usurping the power and decision making of the School Committee.
“The Town Manager and the Finance Committee both recommended giving us that $240,000,” said Masucci. “The Council voted to put it in the Council reserve fund and possibly give it back to us if we’re good boys and girls and that’s upsetting to me.”
Martucci said several people have asked him to reconsider his decision and serve out the final 18 months of his term.
“If this Council decides to have a special meeting and reverse the $240,000 and give it back to us, I would be more than happy to go back on the committee. I enjoyed immensely my service on the committee and seeing the kids succeed was the most important thing. We have great schools and great kids.”