WAREHAM — In six months of struggling with a school district budget that was close to $1 million off from what the town was willing to set aside, the Wareham School Committee took a look at a newly pared down budget of $28.8 million – from the originally proposed $29.4 million – Wednesday night. The committee could not get a majority vote to pass the budget, which meets the amount the town is willing to provide for the schools in fiscal year 2019.
With newly elected committee member Mike Flaherty and member Mary Morgan voting against the $28.8 million, and newly elected committee member Rebekah Pratt abstaining, Chairman Joyce Bacchiocchi and member Laurie Spear’s votes for the cut-down budget were not enough and left the committee with no choice but to meet again directly before April 23 Town Meeting.
“We are going to plan to meet the day of Town Meeting and try to answer some of the committee members questions and see if we can come to a consensus,” said Bacchiochi after the meeting.
Superintendent Kimberly Shaver-Hood said she was concerned that with a budget that does not meet the amount the town has agreed to for the district, the original proposal of $29.4 million would be the amount in front of voters at Town Meeting.
“At this point, I don’t know where the money would come from (to cover the higher budget amount),” said the superintendent, adding that if the committee agreed to the lower number “the decision could be on how we are going to meet this ($28.8 million) number.”
In referring to how to get to the lower budget amount, Shaver-Hood was referring to another matter integral to making the budget decision — whether or not to close the Minot Elementary School — which will provide a savings of about $1 million for the district, according to Business Manager Michael MacMillan.
The closure of Minot will mean sending elementary students from that school to Decas Elementary, a decision that would also involve getting portable classrooms to Decas for the Minot students.
“If we are going to purchase portables then we need to get the specs now, there is a timeline for that,” said the superintendent. “You want to give notice so people can find other employment.”
With questions from Flaherty on how the Minot School closing would impact the number of layoffs for the district, MacMillan responded that there would be 32 full-time equivalent positions lost with the closure of Minot, and 36 full-time positions lost without the closure, “but these positions are not all teachers,” said MacMillan, noting that the closure of the school would mean one less principal. “There would be eight to 10 more teaching positions (lost) without the closure of Minot.”
Hood said that the loss of the additional teaching positions would mean larger class sizes throughout the district.
Town Meeting is April 23.