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Education Emphasized in Somerville City Budget

A proposed $195.7 budget represents a 5.8 percent increase over the previous year's budget.

For the second year in a row, Somerville's proposed city budget includes a significant increase in school spending.

The $195.7 million city budget for fiscal year 2014, which Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone presented to the Somerville Board of Aldermen Tuesday night, includes $56.6 million in allocations for the school department.

That represents a nearly 7 percent increase over the $52.9 million fiscal year 2013 school budget, which, in turn, represented a 6.91 percent increase over the fiscal year 2012 budget.

As recently as fiscal year 2010, Somerville's school budget was decreasing compared to the previous year—by 2.2 percent—according to the mayor's presentation. It then rose slightly, by 2 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively, in fiscal years 2011 and 2012, lower than average annual inflation in the United States.

Somerville's fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.

Speaking after his presentation Tuesday, Curtatone said education "needs to be the bedrock" of the city. "We want people to move into the city for the schools," he said.

Some of the proposed education spending in the fiscal year 2014 budget would phase in universal preschool, provide foreign language classes to sixth graders and expand enrichment programs, such as music and sports.

The mayor said an increase in school spending is "something we should all be proud of as a community."

New hires

Other than schools, the proposed fiscal year 2014 budget calls for hiring about 13 new staffers, including a Geographic Information Systems analyst, a preventative maintenance manager, inspectional services clerks and school nurses.

The proposed budget also makes investments in the Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development, inspectional services and veterans services, according to the mayor's proposal.

Ward 2 Alderman Maryann Heuston, who chairs the Board of Aldermen's finance committee, which reviews and approves the budget, voiced approval of the city's financial condition.

"I think the clouds are clearing," she said, looking back at past budget cycles when, especially after the economic crisis of 2008, "we were really concerned about getting over humps."

She and the mayor said the city is now able to budget based on long-term goals for the city.

"We are not playing the short game in Somerville, we are playing the long game," said Curtatone.

The finance committee will review the budget throughout the first half of June, and it plans to vote on the financial document later in the month.

Somerville Home Owner June 05, 2013 at 04:00 PM
Increased spending on education is good, as long as it is spent on the resources needed for teachers and kids. Too often increases go to the administrators at the top and nothing really improves. (I mean this in a general sense, not Somerville specifically.)
Paula Woolley June 05, 2013 at 09:30 PM
To Somerville Home Owner, The increases in education are mostly going directly to classroom and other support services for kids. The following is from an email from Mark Niedergang, ward 5 School Comm member about the proposed increases: - 2 more pre-K SMILE classrooms, free for all students, for a total of 11 classrooms -- 7 new early-literacy playgroups for pre-school families --expansion of Spanish language instruction to the 6th grade - a full-time Coordinator for the Unidos two-way Spanish-English program -salary increases for teachers and other staff - increase in the Special Education budget - additional funds for the Somerville Family Learning Collaborative - an additional elementary music teacher for strings and percussion. After the public hearing on the proposed budget, the School Committee also added: - $30K for a consultant to study and improve advising on post-secondary education for Somerville Public School students - restored a cut Redirect teacher at East Somerville Community School
Somerville Home Owner June 06, 2013 at 10:16 AM
That's great!! I'm glad to hear this. Thank you for posting.
Stephen J. Cronin June 09, 2013 at 11:55 PM
As a Somerville Homeowner and SPS Educator I am glad City Hall is so happy with the increased funding for our public schools. Nothing enhances the value of my home more than the investment in our schools to support our children and their families. Somerville needs a new 21st century High School! This budget fails to address that. Also, the Somerville Public Educators do not have a contract!

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