Council Backs Schools, Defeats Additional Cuts
The City Council voted a resolution backing the schools and then beat back an attempt to slash the school department budget.
Weighing in formally for the first time on the controversy swirling around the Marlborough Public Schools, the City Council voted Tuesday night to back a resolution supporting the work being done in the school system, then beat back an effort to further slash the district’s 2013 budget.
The resolution, read by Councilor and former Marlborough High School teacher and administrator Edward Clancy, said the council “confirms the belief that excellent teaching and learning occurs every day” in the district.
The council vows in the resolution to work on "continuing to provide a high quality education for our students within a framework of fiscal accountability."
“This is a method by which the faculty and staff can realize that we do care about them and hear their concerns,” Clancy said. “This gives them the idea that we support them and are there for them if they need us.”
The unanimous vote in favor of the resolution was followed by a lengthy debate over a motion by Councilor Katie Robey to cut another $500,000 from the school department’s fiscal year 2013 budget.
Robey said the cuts were justified because of extensive unspent funds remaining in the current budget with just two weeks left in the academic year, including funds in revolving accounts and gift accounts.
The School Committee “has no clue what is going on with the budget,” said Robey, a former school board member.
Several councilors spoke in favor of the reduction, while others while well-intentioned, it represented too dratstic a last-minute change. The original budget drafted by Mayor Arthur Vigeant reduced the school’s original request by $1 million, while the Finance Committee trimmed another $100,000 in its review.
“This will cause chaos,” said Councilor Donald R. Landers.
Councilor Joseph F. Delano said the reduction could lead to an immediate round of layoffs that would be an additional expense to the city in the form of unemployment benefits. “If nothing else, this new information shows us that the mayor’s cut are validated,” Delano said.
After a recess and a suspension of the City Council’s rules to allow Vigeant to address the body, Robey reduced her requested cut to $250,000. That motion fell one vote short of the six needed to pass, with Michael Ossing, Matt Elder, Richard Jenkins and Robert Seymour voting to support Robey’s motion.
City Council President Patricia Pope initially spoke in favor of the cuts, but said in the end the potential for widespread layoffs changed her mind. “I can’t in good conscience let all those pink slips go out,” she said.