IPSWICH — If at first you don’t succeed in passing an override, you can try again.
That’s a possibility in the aftermath of the failure of the May 20 Proposition 21/2 override, according to school Superintendent William Hart. The $2.75 million measure had been designed both to close a budget deficit and expand school services. With its failure, Hart says he is scrambling, cutting 14 teaching assistants and nine teaching positions.
Some of these will come through layoffs, he said, while some will be accomplished through retirements, including eight departing teachers. “We have to deal with the current reality. A number of people are losing their jobs.” As a result, scheduling problems are expected at the high school. “At the middle school — a number of positions will be lost there,” he said.
Also lost are plans that would have improved education, according to advocates, providing more teachers, advanced placement classes, writing courses, art classes, counselors and librarians.
In the hope of mitigating the damage, Hart met with selectmen and the Finance Committee earlier this week, in part to seek additional sources of revenue for the schools. He estimates a budget hole of roughly $2 million, the amount needed to maintain the schools at the current level.
“This is a setback,” he said, “not a derailment.”
Hart believes that state Rep. Brad Hill (R-Ipswich) may have inadvertently doomed the override when he announced to Town Meeting that he’d secured $3 million in state funding for education in Ipswich. Some may have failed to realize that the $3 million represents a mere $100,000 increase over last year’s state funding, not enough to erase the town’s budget woes.
“That kind of hurt the campaign,” Hart said.
The override, however, easily won the support of Town Meeting voters. In the townwide vote that followed, the measure was defeated by roughly 60 votes out of more than 4,000. Nevertheless, Hart believes advocates did the right thing in asking for more money than needed to close the budget gap. At the same time, he did not rule out asking for less in a new override.