School Committee approves budget, cuts positions

School Committee approves budget, cuts positions

CUMBERLAND – The Cumberland School Committee approved its final $55.5 million budget last Thursday, cutting about $750,000 in positions and programs to balance it.

“Nobody’s happy” about losing key personnel, said school board member Bill Dennen, but the board had no choice.

Member Paul DiModica, of the finance committee, said officials hate to lose any teachers.

Board members said the situation could have been much worse, but town officials gave a bigger increase to the schools than they’ve ever offered before.

Supt. Robert Mitchell said officials “spent a tremendous amount of time in an effort to balance the budget.” Despite an increase of about $2.3 million from the town, cuts were still necessary, he said.

The school board approved cutting six teacher assistant positions, at a cost of $147,000, two coordinator positions, at a cost of $93,000, an elementary school music position, Chromebooks for elementary students, and some planned facility repairs. Mitchell said officials hope to get creative in supporting band programs at the elementary level next year.

Mitchell said it’s “frustrating and heartbreaking” to lose “really talented people” in key positions.

DiModica commended Mayor Bill Murray and other town officials for his strong support of schools this year. He also hailed parents and educators for coming out in droves to support more funding for schools, saying he never expected when he asked people to force budget hearings out of Town Hall due to crowd size that they would do it at the library as well.

“You guys did great,” he said, at moving town officials “out of their comfort zones.”

Dennen said the relationship between the schools and town “feels like a partnership” for the first time in a while, and he thinks officials on all sides are now seeing the long-term funding problem the schools is facing.

School Committee member Stephen Hess said he takes solace this year in the fact that town officials seem to have a greater understanding than ever before about the situation the schools find themselves in. He said it will take “communal efforts to improve funding” to the schools.

“We did not get into this situation in one or two years, and we will not get out of it in one or two years,” he said. The fight for more funding can’t stop with the end of the budget season, he said.