BEVERLY — It was a public hearing with only a few members of the public speaking and no school officials responding.
That combination led to one of the shortest school budget hearings in recent memory last night at the high school.
Only about 30 people, most of them school and city officials, attended the hearing, and only seven members of the public stepped up to the microphone to make comments.
With School Committee President Maria Decker limiting the comments to three minutes and announcing that committee members would not respond during the meeting, the hearing was over in 30 minutes.
After the meeting, Decker said it is “standard protocol” for the School Committee not to respond during a public hearing.
“It’s the opportunity for the public to express their thoughts,” she said. “It’s not to engage in a conversation or a debate about it. Everything that was said, we all took notes on and will take into consideration.”
Decker said one of the reasons so few people spoke is because the schools are in good shape and there is extra money in the budget this year to hire teachers and boost programs.
“That’s part of why it was a quieter public hearing than in many years,” she said. “Great things are going on and the budget looks good dollar-wise.”
The proposed budget calls for $48 million in spending, a 2.58 percent increase over this year. Counting state aid, grants and other funds, the full cost of education in the district is nearly $54 million, Superintendent Marie Galinski said.
Galinski said the budget is being helped by increases in state funding and school choice revenue and savings from health insurance costs and the retirement of 13 teachers, who will be replaced by newer teachers who make less money.
The budget includes money to hire four new teachers at the elementary school level and a physics teacher and physical education teacher at the high school.