Marblehead School Committee votes to send two budgets to the Town

Exterior of the newly built Lucretia and Joesph Brown Elementary School in Marblehead on Monday. Photo by Libby O'Neill

The School Committee met Monday morning to continue the discussion on the fiscal year 2024 budget and voted for Superintendent John Buckey to present two budgets to the town before its budget hearing next Tuesday.

The committee voted to have Buckey present a budget including all cuts requested by the Town and one including an override with no additional costs.

“We’re required to post our budget that we’ll be presenting at the budget hearing by Thursday,” School Committee Chair Sarah Fox said.

Currently, the committee does not have the final numbers needed to finish building the budget. In a statement to the Weekly News, Fox said they are still waiting for the town to close FY22 books.

“Until that is done and they have a final number of what level of free cash is available, we do not know if the number of $800,000 is actually the number above our current budget that the town will be able to support as a ‘balanced budget,’” Fox wrote. “We also have not received definitive guidance on what would be supported as part of any ‘structural deficit’ to be included in warrant article 31.”

Article 31, Supplemental Appropriation and Expenses of Several Departments, is “to see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate or transfer from available funds a sum of money to supplement the Town’s General Government operating budget beginning in FY24.”

The $800,000 number Fox mentioned is the additional amount the committee had to cut from their budget, which will lead to job and program cuts.

School Committee member Meagan Taylor expressed concern with not having the final numbers for the committee’s budget.

“How do you make decisions if we don’t have actual numbers to make decisions on?” Taylor asked.

Fox said she would like to present three versions of the budget to the town. Those three include one that would include the cuts, one that would have an override with no additional costs added, and one that has everything the committee would like to add if they had the funds.

“I firmly believe it is my job as a school committee member to bring forward a budget that is representative of the needs of our students,” Fox said. “And then I feel it is the responsibility of the bill’s voters to say if they want to fund that.”

Fox made a motion for the board to vote on whether Buckey should present all three budget scenarios to the town. No one seconded the motion, forcing the board to come up with an alternative option.

The School Committee voted to present just two scenarios, excluding the ideal budget.

“Under the current motion, we are accepting the advice from the administration, which is to present the two scenarios and go under with the town under Article 31 for the level service budget, and that he can operationalize either those,” said School Committee member Thomas Mathers.

Four members voted yes for the motion and Fox voted no.

“Dr. Buckey, you have your direction, and those will be the numbers that are presented,” Fox said.

The next school committee meeting is Thursday at 7 p.m. and the budget hearing is next Tuesday at 7 p.m.