2018-07-26 / Around Town

School Committee to Request Shortfall Help

Accepts Cuts, Projections
By Andy Long

The Newport School Committee, meeting for the first time since discovering that it faced deficits for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, voted to wait until they had a final number for the 2018 deficit before asking the City Council to make up the difference, and decided to accept the recommendations of the Finance and Audit Subcommittee on a program of cuts to deal with a more than $1 million projected deficit for 2019.

The 2018 deficit is estimated at $465,000, but not all the bills and revenue have been finalized.

The amount of $465,000 derives from the district having overspent by $1.9 million in some budget areas, underspending by roughly $800,000 in others, and by applying the $610,000 they have in their accounts.

Additionally, the $465,000 is still a projection, as not all of FY18’s expenses and revenues have been received by the district.

Committee Chair David Hanos said of the 2018 deficit, “We’re going to use the $610,000 in the fund balance and then after we get all our bills, we’re just going to request the city cover the remainder.”

Asked how he felt about last year’s budget shortfall, Hanos said, “It would have been nice to have met our budget, but we are where we are.”

Committee Vice Chair Raymond Gomes, who is also the chairperson of the Finance and Audit Subcommittee, echoed Hanos’ remarks on the 2018 gap. “It is what it is. We have to wait until we see where the dust settles out and go from there,” he said.

The committee also voted to accept the school district’s business manager and director of Administrative Services Carlos Colley’s revenue projection for Fiscal Year 19, $40.96 million.

The committee is yet to formally receive Colley’s projected expenses for this year’s expenses, but he has presented his current best estimates to the Finance and Audit Subcommittee. Colley expects a deficit of approximately $1.9 million.

Colley has also given the subcommittee a proposal to balance the FY19 budget and the committee in August will discuss ways to close the gap.

“We know that in order to balance the budget, we need to have some difficult conversations. We need to make some difficult decisions, and unfortunately it has to do with staff and it has to do with programs,” Superintendent Colleen Jermain said.

Jermain said she has been meeting with teachers and administrators to discuss the deficit, and she will come up with a plan to meet the budget gap.

“We don’t want anyone to lose their job and we want the best educational opportunities for our students,” she said.

“Hopefully, we can set up some stop-gap measures, so we don’t run into this next year,” Hanos said, speaking of the FY19 numbers. “We have a way to clear out some of the deficit coming forward, so that’s going to be reorganizations and some layoffs.”

When asked how they would close the gap for 2019, he said that they would adopt Colley’s recommendations for a program of cuts.

After the meeting, committee member David Carlin said, “It was awful. This is how we get into the situation we’re in now, fixing the ‘18 budget.”

Carlin, who called for Jermain to be fired, said there were no specific cuts, just a commitment to reduce expenses, in the projected budget for the upcoming school year. “We have plenty of spending for administrators and for programs that don’t directly affect the kids. But yet we are laying off or not hiring teachers,” he said. In other matters:

. Michael Monahan, 44, was appointed assistant principal of Rogers High School. Monahan has been director of Student Support Services at Portsmouth High School for the past 11 years.

. Laurie Sullivan’s contract as principal of Thompson Middle School was approved.

. The committee voted to ratify agreements with the two unions that represent the district’s employees. In both cases, the unions accepted salary freezes for the fiscal year.

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