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North Suburban News

Woburn Schools Face $2.9 Million Budget Shortfall

Apr 22, 2019 07:57AM ● By Dan Marra

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WOBURN – Just days after announcing a new three year contract with the Woburn Teachers Association, the Woburn School Department also announced a $2.9 million shortfall in next year’s budget.

According to Woburn Superintendent, Dr. Matthew Crowley, a combination of “escalating special education costs” along with the associated transportation costs “coupled with contractual obligations” has put the district in this situation.

The recently-signed contract is retroactive to the start of this year and will go until 2021. The contract provides Woburn teachers with a six percent wage increase during the duration of the contract with annual salary increases of two percent a year. According to Dr. Crowley, the contract would allow Woburn to expand art and music for students at the elementary level. In order to do that, Dr. Crowley had planned to add new staff beginning in September 2019.

However, it is unclear what this shortfall means for those promises as Dr. Crowley did not respond to multiple requests asking for clarification as to when the school department learned about the shortfall, what it means for next year or options the district has to cover the shortfall.

Dr. Crowley stated to the School Committee that the district has enough funds to make it through this year, but will be faced with financial challenges next school year. Dr. Crowley informed the school committee that he has spoken with Mayor Scott Galvin regarding the budget shortfall.

One suggestion made by the committee has been to use the city’s “rainy day fund", but city council president Mike Anderson, while he has not seen specific numbers regarding the school budget, cautioned against that approach.

“The City Council wants a top notch education for all students in Woburn,” Anderson said. “And the city does have free cash, but that’s the taxpayer’s money. I don’t think that’s the answer. If we pay this year, then how do you pay for next year?”

According to Dr. Crowley, the budget numbers submitted to Joseph Elia, Assistant Superintendent for Finance & Operations, did not include any increase to out of district tuitions or transportation.

“These are our kids we’re talking about,” Dr. Crowley said. “We’re all responsible for kids. We need to figure out a way collaboratively for kids to get the services they need, while simultaneously building infrastructure. It costs money to make money.”

But for school committee Rick Metters, the news came out of nowhere.

“I candidly feel blindsided,” Metters said. “This is a failure of our system to reasonably anticipate expenses. The word override has to be considered. I do not see $2.9 million in efficiencies or savings in special education even if we look outside of special ed., unless we take away every bit of progress we’ve made in years.”

The School Committee will continue its budget discussion Monday, April 22 at 7 p.m.

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