MANCHESTER – The Board of School Committee is unlikely to use any of the nearly $5 million reserved in special trust funds to keep teachers and staff on board next school year, leaving the fate of the district's funding in the hands of the Board of Aldermen.
The school board had been getting pressure this past week from the aldermen to use the district's trust funds set aside for health care, special education and unexpected costs. The funds had been used in the past to prevent layoffs, but the school board voted earlier this year against using any of the money for next year's budget.
The board adjourned around 10 p.m., on Monday without bringing up the subject again.
“There was no appetite for it among the members,” said Vice Chairman Dave Gelinas. Out of the 15 members on the board, there were about five votes in favor of using the funds, said Gelinas.
“I didn't want to bring it up and waste our time,” said Gelinas. “Whatever the aldermen decide, we'll have to live with.”
It is the board's consensus that using the trust funds is a one-time funding source that would serve as a fix this year, but would leave the district in a budget hole next year.
The school board has requested $152 million from the city to fund school programs. This is $10 million short of what Superintendent of School Thomas Brennan said is needed to keep all programs and positions in place. To fix the budget gap, the school board voted to lay off 161 staff. Brennan said the district will have 180 to 200 open positions next year, including layoffs, retirements and those not returning.
The Board of Mayor and Aldermen are meeting tonight to discuss the city and school budgets. Although there are some budget items that must be voted on by midnight tonight, the aldermen have until the end of the month to vote on the school and city budget.
The aldermen are expected to debate at least two compromise budgets that will give the schools more than the $150 million Mayor Ted Gatsas has proposed allocating. What aldermen are likely to discuss is not only how much to give the district, but whether it should be allocated to the district in one lump sum or if some should be reserved on the city side for special items.