|Pittsfield Mayor, Superintendent Reach Budget Compromise|
|By Joe Durwin, Pittsfield Correspondent|
11:01AM / Thursday, June 14, 2012
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The School Committee voted Wednesday to accept a revised budget figure for the 2013 fiscal year following a last-minute negotiation by Mayor Daniel Bianchi and outgoing superintendent Howard J. "Jake" Eberwein to avoid more serious staff layoffs in the district.
As part of the deal reached Wednesday afternoon, the School Department will add an additional $150,000 from a revolving tuition account, and make an additional $165,000 worth of cuts in non-personnel expenses; the mayor has pledged to carve out an additional $300,000 in city funding in his municipal budget. This will bring the total school allocation to $54,516,701.
"We've really looked at all of our spending items and tried to dip $5,000, $10,000, $8,000, across a lot of different accounts to get to that figure," said Eberwein, whose initial budget recommendations called for about a $1 million more in city funding than the figure the mayor said he would submit in his overall city budget.
Eberwein said he and Bianchi had been "crunching numbers all day" in an attempt to avoid more scathing personnel cuts, which proved unpopular to many at last week's public input hearing. Among other savings, this most recent budget revision will recover about 5 out of 7 threatened academic positions as well as several coaches. Eberwein indicated that a large proportion of the non-personnel expenses to be cut would be in information technology costs.
"It's not an ideal situation for anybody, but I think it responds to the needs of the city and maintains the integrity of the system," Eberwein said of the revised budget.
Bianchi appreciated the School Department's ability to find additional cuts in nonpersonnel expenditures and its willingness to dip into the revolving accounts to meet him half way in moving the budget.
"I know it's not a comfortable thing to allocate from those accounts, but it certainly is something that I think is appropriate in this case."
The mayor called the additional $300,000 from the city side a minor adjustment that "would not have a huge impact on taxpayers."
"It's certainly going to be a challenging year," said the mayor "But once we meet that challenge we're still going to be offering a great educational experience for our 6,000-plus students."
School Committeee member Kathleen Amuso thanked the superintendent and mayor for working collaboratively to come to a more palatable budget compromise.
"I dont think it is ideal for anybody, but I think this does work for our system the best that it can for the money we have, and I think it does work for the taxpayer," said Amuso.
Also on Wednesday, the School Committee conducted interviews of two candidates, Gordon Noseworthy and Basan Nemberkow, for the position of interim superintendent of schools. The position of superintendent of schools will become vacant with Eberwein's departure at the end of this month. The School Committee voted on May 9 to seek a one-year interim replacement, when a search process conducted over the spring failed to produce an adequate superintendent candidate.
Following the interviews the committee voted to schedule another special meeting on Monday, June 18, at 6 p.m., at which time it is slated to make a decision to offer the job to one of the two candidates.