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May 21, 2013

Danvers school budget under fire at Town Meeting

DANVERS — Town Meeting last night quelled a mini revolt over the school budget and rejected the idea of Saturday voting for the annual town election.

There was much debate over a minority report from two dissenting Finance Committee members, Michael Daley and John Mroszczyk, who sought to trim the school budget down from a 3.19 percent increase to a 2.5 percent increase, which worked out to about $215,000 from the $34.4 million budget request.

It was an unusual move to debate the school budget on the floor of Town Meeting, but proponents said it was meant to send a message to the School Department that it has to live within its means. Comparatively, the general government budget received a 2.2 percent increase this year, said Daley’s wife, Precinct 3 Town Meeting member Andrea Daley.

Andrea Daley said the school district’s enrollment has flat-lined over the past several years, but costs keep going up. She said the opening of the new regional vocational school now under construction along Route 62 and the middle school program being planned at St. John’s Prep in Danvers could further divert students from the school system.

She also asked how many total staff members would be added in the district’s request for an equivalent of seven full-time positions, which equates to an increase in salaries of $551,000. Daley’s point was that these people “are not part of the present contract.”

School Committee Chairman Eric Crane read a list of new positions, including a therapeutic teacher, world language teacher at the high school, and social studies and science teachers at the middle school, to name a few.

“The list of folks I mentioned here are delivering direct services to students,” Crane said. Later, school officials clarified that there would be nine staff added, including a curriculum director and the director of the Danvers Cares youth risk behavior prevention coalition.

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