BEVERLY — Mayor Bill Scanlon has offered another $100,000 to fund the schools next year, after Superintendent James Hayes said closing only one elementary school would leave a budget shortfall.
Even with the extra money, Hayes will still have to make $270,000 worth of cuts to his proposed budget for next year.
Looking at the big picture — a total budget of nearly $50 million — that should be feasible, Scanlon said.
"He's dealing with less than half of 1 percent of that budget, and I think good management should be able to deal with that," Scanlon said.
The School Committee was not so sure.
"Although the mayor has been very generous, we still have to close the gap," said President Annemarie Cesa.
Hayes had proposed turning Cove School into an early childhood education center and McKeown School into an alternative secondary school. But the School Committee opted instead for the mayor's plan to close only one school, after he offered $680,000 to keep Cove School open.
Scanlon said he didn't feel confident about Hayes' budget predictions and estimates. "I can't fund something I don't believe in," Scanlon said.
During Wednesday night's School Committee meeting, Scanlon said he expressed "strong displeasure with numbers continually changing related to the closing of one school," adding that Hayes' estimate for the cost of keeping Cove School open went from $1 million, down to $680,000 and back up to about $1 million.
"I'm very unhappy with constantly changing numbers, but since estimates were involved, I said I would try to find an additional $100,000," Scanlon said.
Hayes said the numbers aren't changing; estimates are a moving target.
"He makes it out like I don't know my numbers and am changing them," Hayes said. "What I'm doing is going from a hypothetical model to the reality of redistricting kids, and there's a difference in the number of teachers you can cut. That's the difference he still does not grasp."
In a lighter moment during Wednesday's meeting, School Committee President Annemarie Cesa said the mayor joked he never thought he'd get in trouble for offering more money, and Cesa said School Committee members never thought they would be upset with him for trying to save a school.
"This has been stressful for all of us," she said. "We're all in this for the kids."
The School Committee is waiting until after Tuesday's Proposition 21/2 override vote to make any cuts. If the override passes, the cuts will not be needed, because extra revenue from taxpayers will keep the school district the same in September.
If they do have to make cuts, the option to lay off a team of teachers at Briscoe Middle School is not being considered.
"We all said that is not on the table," Cesa said.
As is the tradition, the School Committee hasn't scheduled any meetings for next week because it's senior week at Beverly High School.
"We're going to take a deep breath," Cesa said.