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Dawson to meet demand for increased school funding

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

AGAWAM Last week, Mayor Susan Dawson responded to public outcry for increased funding within the School Department's fiscal year 2009 (FY09) budget.

In a memorandum dated June 5, Dawson informed Superintendent Dr. Mary Czajkowski and the members of the School Committee that she would be requesting a one-time appropriation of $72,000 for the School Department at the City Council's June 16 meeting.

The demand for additional funding came in the wake of the mayor's proposed $33.9 million School Department budget a 5.45 percent increase over FY08 as opposed to the department's request for a $34.1 million budget. The mayor had requested that the department cut approximately $181,000 in order to exercise belt tightening during difficult fiscal times.

The cut would have eliminated the purchase of middle school reading textbooks, junior high school foreign language textbooks, video technology equipment for the high school's Video Production class and a secretary for the middle school library. However, the mayor is requesting that the City Council appropriate $72,000 for the textbooks and video equipment only.

"The additional funding will not be reflected in the FY09 School Committee or Town budget," she explained in the memorandum. "It will be an additional outside appropriation.

"It is my hope that this will alleviate the concerns raised by the City Council and School Committee about the proposed Town budget," she continued.

Dawson said her request is "based upon my strong belief that our children should have the educational tools necessary to succeed."

Czajkowski said she was relieved and pleased to hear of the mayor's decision to fund these items.

"These funds will directly impact our students in the classroom," she said. "I am most appreciative of the efforts of both the School Committee and City Council for their persistence in the advocation of money for our schools."

School Committee member Diane Juzba, also chair of the committee's Finance and Budget Subcommittee has been a strong, vocal advocate for the $34.1 million budget put forth by the School Department, and also an advocate for the regaining the $181,000. She explained that she is "enormously happy" for the mayor's decision to allocate money for textbooks and the video equipment, which was contained within the budget put forth to the mayor by the School Committee.

City Councilor George Bitzas, also a member of the council's School Budget Committee said he knew they had to "find a compromise."

"This money is a [small] drop in the bucket," he said. "We had to put politics and personalities aside for the betterment of the town."

The public hearing for the FY09 town budget will take place at the City Council's June 16 meeting in the Agawam Middle School auditorium.