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School Committee Approves FY18 School Budget

New Bedford Educators Association President Lou St. John speaks at Monday's school budget hearing. | Jon Faria/TSM
New Bedford Educators Association President Lou St. John speaks at Monday’s school budget hearing. | Jon Faria/TSM

Despite seeing multiple cuts in next year’s budget, New Bedford officials say student won’t see any loss of services.

During Monday’s meeting, the New Bedford School Committee reviewed the latest version of the FY18 school operating budget, and passed it with a 5-2 vote.

District officials cut the budget down to $130,950,000, which is about $4-million less than would bring the school district level with last year’s services.

Even with those reductions, Superintendent Pia Durkin says students won’t be effected.

“We’ve been really conscious of keeping reductions away from classrooms,” Durkin said.

As a part of the budget reductions, three high school positions are expected to be left vacant at a $150,000 saving, along with five elementary school positions at $250,000.  Durkin said some of the positions are retiring employees, while others will be moved into different roles.

One area that committee members were reluctant to approve reductions at was the Fine Arts program. The program saw a $10,000 cut in transportation costs, however could get an additional $4,000 cut for instruments.

Mayor Mitchel said band is an area where investment is needed in New Bedford, with the downsized instrument budget not making sense.

With the amount being relatively small, committee member Josh Amaral suggested using the committee’s power to take from other areas to fund the instruments.

“If there’s anywhere administratively we can take some dollars, like paying lawyers or consultants, or something like that, [and] re-purpose them for fine arts, we’re going to do that all the time,” Amaral told WBSM News.

Amaral, along with fellow committee member Chris Cotter made up the only votes against the total school budget.

While Cotter questioned some of the budget’s items, Amaral said his ‘no’ vote was a protest against state under-funding the city by about $20-30 million according to his calculations, although he approved of the actual budget.

The FY18 school budget will now go before the City Council on Wednesday to be finalized, or possibly cut more.

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