Marblehead School Committee Restores $1.5 Million To FY25 Budget

MARBLEHEAD, MA — The Marblehead School Committee is looking to restore about two-thirds of the funds needed to offset $2.3 million in cuts that would be necessitated by a “reduced-services budget” through the use of the fiscal year 2024 surpluses, not fully funding revolving funds and a request for additional town funding — including $200,000 from an estimated town surplus of “free cash.”

The School Committee voted unanimously on Monday night to restore about $1.5 million in cuts that were implemented after last year’s failed tax override and were to be required in the “reduced-services” budget for fiscal year 2025.

The restorations included four categories of priorities as set forth by Interim Superintendent Theresa McGuinness.

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“Everything is necessary,” McGuinness said. “We had to start somewhere. So we started with: ‘What in your school must you have for next year?’ That’s what this was. This is what we have to have in the categories up top. The others are greatly needed as well.”

School Committee Chair Sarah Fox said the administration will determine in the upcoming weeks how much of the restored funding it can absorb within its internal budget and then bring forth to the town meeting the number it is requesting from the town.

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At this point, the restorations do not include a third straight general tax override request — after Proposition 2 1/2 overrides failed townwide votes the past two years — this year. But Fox allowed the town will likely once again seek additional tax funding next year.

“There is no path that (fiscal year) 2026 does not involve a Prop 2 1/2 (override) without extreme cuts,” Fox said. “Our projections of free cash next year … this year was zero growth, which turned out to be minimal growth. Next year’s projections are for negative growth.”

The restorations would require the schools not to fund their “rainy day” revolving accounts at less than the 100 percent level prescribed by previous school budget officials after a 2019 budget crisis.

“There is nothing about this budget that’s aspirational,” said Mary Delai, who is serving as the acting director of finance and budget for the schools. “So to that point, while it is aspirational to have 100 percent of your reserves on hand, this is a time when — just like with any rainy day fund — it’s pouring, so these are times when you have to rely on that.

“So some combination of some cuts, some revolving funds, and some additional free cash — hopefully generated or regenerated by our school department turnback to some extent — would be an acceptable solution that would get us to cover these adds back into the budget from the reduced-service budget to get you closer to the level services.

“Not quite there, but closer to level services.”

(Scott Souza is a Patch field editor covering Beverly, Danvers, Marblehead, Peabody, Salem and Swampscott. He can be reached at X/Twitter: @Scott_Souza.)

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