|By Natasha Clark|
Reminder Assistant Editor
LONGMEADOW Last year at this time, the Longmeadow School Committee was in the process of preparing a FY06 budget that required a Proposition 2 1/2 override by town voters.
"What we're trying to do is to stop the backslide and move forward with the funding approach," explained Geoff Weigand School Committee member/Chair of the Finance Sub-Committee. "We're trying to fix some structural problems with the budget and begin to build forward. We feel that there have been issues for a number of years and we want to get the ship turned around."
The number of the proposed above level-service budget items of the Cabinet (group of principals, administrators and the Superintendent) versus the above level-service budget items of the Finance Sub-Committee differ by thousands.
Based on the FY07 Above Level Service Summary available at www.longmeadow.k12.ma.us, the Cabinet's above-level service number is $1,222,381; the Finance Sub-Committee's is $315,658.
The Cabinet listed budget items such as class size, math instruction support, custodians and textbooks as some of their needs.
Out of the 16 needs listed, the Finance Sub-Committee chose six. Those items not included are expenses for equipment, administrators, a district technical assistant, and replacement computers, among others.
Weigand gave Reminder Publications an idea of where the Committee was last year compared to the present.
Weigand explained that, through the strategic plan for the district, there was a set of priorities that the School Committee used to build the budget last June after the town election. Some of them were somewhat adjusted for this year's budget process.
"And that was something the Committee voted on. We also have a list of items that are in addition to beyond level service that the Superintendent [Dr. Scott AndersEn], Assistant Superintendent and cabinet put together, and they established it in their order of priority," Weigand said.
Weigand continued to explain that the Finance Sub-committee looked at the set of items, met with the cabinet twice and came out with a recommendation that they could support going forward.
There were some things cut last year that the Committee are trying to reinstate maintenance being one of them.
"From what we had to cut last year we realized that we went too far. [So we're] restoring positions that were there and it's a consenus that it's absolutely needed. We were in a very tight fiscal situation," Weigand said.
But not all School Committee members are satisfied with the above level-service budget items. Committee member Jessica Hutchins spoke with Reminder Publications last week, as well.
"It is our job as a School Committee to advocate for the critical needs of the schools," Hutchins explained.
Hutchins said that she felt that, as a member of the School Committee, it is her legal obligation to advocate for the students and their "basic fundamental needs." She said she does not feel those needs will be met with the proposed budget from the Finance Sub-Commitee.
"That's why there is a School Committee separate from the Finance Committee, Town Manager and Select Board," she said.
Hutchins said that she feels the needs of the school system should be made known to the citizens of Longmeadow.
"We need to make these known through our budget proposal so that they [the needs] will be on the radar of the town. We owe it to the town to tell them what our schools need," she added.
"It's a work in progress right now," Weigand said about the budget. "We have worked really well with Scott [AndersEn] and the cabinet, and we realized there are a lot of different perspectives that need to be taken into account ... This is a step and there are many more to take."
The School Committee will host a public budget hearing Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. This is an opportunity for the public to comment on the Committee's proposed FY07 budget prior to submission to the Select Board.