District Minimizes Payroll Cuts, Schedules Furloughs
DANVERS — Superintendent Heidi Riccio reports that Essex North Shore Agricultural and Technical School has proactively reduced its budget with an eye toward preserving faculty and staff positions amid anticipated cuts to state funding due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Essex Tech’s School Committee approved a revised budget today that will be sent to the district’s member communities in preparation for upcoming town meetings, until the state budget is approved and state funding for the coming year is finalized.
The district’s original budget for the 2020-2021 school year was approved by the School Committee in March, before the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools statewide to close their facilities and ultimately sparked an economic crisis. The initial budget represented a 4.84% increase over the previous year’s budget, totaling approximately $31 million.
However, the administrative team, Hathorne Federation of Teachers and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) have collaborated to develop a new budget which will reduce that increase to 1.39% over the current year’s budget, a $1,024,000 reduction.
The district’s 2020-2021 budget will also be re-evaluated once the state budget is finalized.
The school was able to shrink its budget for the coming year by reducing supply costs, scheduling a three day furlough for faculty, staff and administrators during the coming school year, as well as a reduction in workforce, voluntary layoffs, retirements and a hiring freeze.
School districts statewide are anticipating significant cuts to Chapter 70 and Circuit Breaker funding from the state due to the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and, while awaiting official announcements from the state, have been forced to re-evaluate their budgets for the coming school year to meet employee contract obligations.
“Every single school district in the Commonwealth is facing this challenge right now, and what we’ve done here is ensure our students will receive the highest quality technical and agricultural education possible while also consciously avoiding excessive payroll cuts during this challenging time,” Superintendent Riccio said. “We’re thankful we were able to collaborate with our two unions to find solutions that meet those needs. We put a tremendous amount of time and effort in to reach this point.”
Essex Tech is the most cost efficient vocational school in the state of Massachusetts according to data from 2019-2020 school year, despite maintaining agricultural programs that require caring for on-site farm animals. Essex Tech spends $18,657 per student, and similar schools in Massachusetts spend as much as $35,111 per pupil.
Essex Tech has approximately 1,500 students serving 17 sending communities and 38 additional surrounding communities.
More information about the district’s budget and plans for the 2020-2021 school year will be shared with all stakeholders as soon as it becomes available.