Newton Public Schools (NPS) officials detailed the faculty and staff positions that the district plans to preserve through newly allocated American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds at a Newton School Committee meeting on Monday night. The committee will vote on the proposed budget at Tuesday’s meeting.
The discussion came after Mayor Ruthanne Fuller announced in a Thursday update that she will allocate $1.51 million in ARPA funds to NPS to reimburse the district for previous costs caused by one-time projects related to COVID-19, such as ventilation improvements.
The added ARPA funds will reduce maintenance costs and allow the district to allocate funds to maintain faculty and staff positions that would have otherwise been cut due to a budget deficit, according to Liam Hurley, NPS assistant superintendent and chief financial and administrative officer.
During Monday’s meeting, Fuller spoke against using one-time funds to alleviate school budget shortfalls.
“On the one hand, we are so aware of the needs of our students and the desire to support them robustly with as many teachers and support as possible,” Fuller said. “On the other hand, using one-time money for ongoing costs creates a real problem for the following year.”
NPS plans to maintain 19.28 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions that were initially in danger of being cut, according to David Fleishman, NPS superintendent. But 20.9 FTE positions could still be eliminated for reasons other than enrollment, according to a document presented at the meeting. One FTE is equivalent to someone who works 40-hour weeks. Out of the 74 FTE positions that originally could have been cut, 33.82 could still be cut due to enrollment reasons.
The preserved positions include 4.50 FTE literacy intervention teachers and 6.58 FTE math intervention teaching assistants, among others, according to Fleishman.
Out of its 20.9 FTE position due to enrollment, 4.1 come from teaching positions at NPS middle schools, and 4.6 come from teaching positions at Newton’s two public high schools.
Fuller said she has prioritized NPS in the municipal budget despite the district’s budget growing faster than those of other city departments.
“I prioritize the Newton Public Schools department budget, which is growing by 3.5 percent and makes up over 60 percent of our total budget,” Fuller said. “That only leaves 140—roughly—million dollars for all the other departments, and we’re facing these same difficult challenges on all the other departments that we’re facing here collectively [in] the schools.”
Fuller said she is trying to juggle both the needs in the schools and the rest of the city, and the job cuts constitute only a small fraction of the NPS faculty and staff.
“This is a $262 million budget with 2,500 people working in—about 2,100 full-time positions,” Fuller said. “And we care so desperately about the last two or three or four at elementary because they really matter. But that’s out of the 2,100 positions.”
The committee will vote on the proposed fiscal year 2023 budget at a Tuesday meeting on Zoom with no public comment.