NEW BEDFORD- The first meeting between New Bedford Public Schools and City Councilmen regarding the school budget for 2018 began Tuesday night at City Hall.

Superintendent of New Bedford Public Schools, Pia Durkin, and Business Manager, Andrew O’Leary, presented an operating budget of $130,950,000 to the City Council.

The hefty price tag for 2018 is actually a 3.5% increase from that of 2017, which respectively sat at $125,500,000. Durkin and O’Leary explained the reasons for the increase of an already large school budget came from a multitude of factors, mostly from the minimum spending the state enforces on the school district in regards to the amount of English language learners are enrolled, special education needed, and general educational programs, amongst others. New additions to New Bedford’s Public Schools service budget include science curriculum materials for grades four through eight, totaling $250,000, as well as an additional 5 ESL teachers at $150,000, and more.

Massachusetts’ mandates are not all to blame, however. In addition to the previously mentioned required expenses the state puts on New Bedford, are costs associated with what the school decides to spend its money on. An administration putting money into a certain fund over another could be the difference in receiving credit from the state for funding. In order to receive the reimbursement credit for school spending, the expense must go directly to educating a child of said district. For example, transportation costs do not count towards the funding New Bedford Public Schools get from the state, while spending on additional specialized teachers, such as ESL teachers, does count towards that funding.

The City Council’s concerns ranged from rise in teacher and administrative salaries, the number of teachers and administrators who live far away from New Bedford, leading high cost of residency amongst staff and lost tax money, and the high transportation costs for city students. Almost all of the concerns listed by the Council shared a common goal of saving as much money as possible from frivolous spending. Another widely held viewpoint amongst City Councilmen was the notion of state legislation being to blame for the majority of the high budget, citing fixed costs such as healthcare and benefits for employees becoming more expensive, thus taking money away that is directly benefiting the students of New Bedford Public Schools.

Meetings are expected to continue throughout the coming weeks at New Bedford City Hall.

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