|Pittsfield School Committee Mulls Budget Challenges|
|By Joe Durwin, Pittsfield Correspondent|
12:56AM / Wednesday, June 13, 2012
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The School Committee delved deeper Tuesday into line-item examination of its evolving 2013 fiscal year budget.
At a special meeting necessitated by ongoing discussion following a public hearing last Wednesday, the
board weighed the relative impact of various personnel cuts as they attempted to establish a working budget within the $53,506,000 Mayor Daniel Bianchi intends to propose in his overall 2013 city budget.
School officials were quizzed on a variety of topics, from custodial needs and energy costs to the specific duties of some of the positions that could be cut in order to close the million-dollar gap between Superintendent Howard "Jake" Eberwein's request for $54.5 million in city funding and the figure called for in Bianchi's budget.
Committee members cited concerns from residents both at and since last week's crowded public hearing, including perceptions of some that the school system might be "top heavy" in administration.
Eberwein disagreed with this assessment, saying administrative positions added in recent years were vital to the progress made in some schools, such as that seen at Reid Middle School, recently designated a New England Spotlight school.
Philosophical issues and general confusion about the current budget evaluation process were repeatedly expressed throughout the two hour special meeting, which was conducted by Vice Chairman Daniel Elias in the absence of Chairman Alfred E. "Alf" Barbalunga.
Member Terry Kinnas voiced general dissatisfaction with the current data available for measuring the impact of various positions, and expressed a desire for more input directly from staff.
"This has got to be done a little better than it has been done before," said Kinnas of the budget review.
Eberwein pointed out that his recommendations are in part a result of input from staff throughout the year, and that many already voiced their priorities at last week's public hearing.
"One of the frustrations is the matter of time," said Bianchi. "These are the types of discussion I would like to see throughout the year."
The committee will continue discussion Wednesday night, at which time it will vote to approve a budget to present to the City Council on Thursday.