Budget shortfall alarms Wareham school officials

Public hearing on potential cuts set for Feb. 28
Feb 8, 2018

Wareham Public School officials warned of “monumental” changes coming caused by a budget shortfall, urging residents to attend a Feb. 28 hearing outlining possible education cuts.

On Wednesday, the School Committee and Superintendent Dr. Kimberly Shaver-Hood said a lean budget may force layoffs and deep cuts to programs.

“Changes in the budget will seriously impact how our district will be operating,” said Shaver-Hood. “These potential changes are monumental and will change how education is offered in Wareham.”

In December, the committee approved a $29.4 million budget for the district for fiscal year 2019, up roughly $1 million from the year prior.

However, municipal revenues have not kept pace. On Feb. 7, Town Administrator Derek Sullivan presented a draft municipal budget to Selectmen for review. He projected that an additional $400,000 will be available in new revenue. Those funds must be split between the town and schools. Ultimately, voters at the April 23 Town Meeting will decide whether or not to approve the budget.

In Sullivan’s draft, he presented Selectmen with a school budget that totaled $28.4 million. School Committee Vice Chair Geoff Swett took issue with that figure. He said under the town charter, which outlines how Wareham is governed, the school committee’s figure must be used when drafting the municipal budget.

“I respect the difficulty the town administrator has in putting together a budget, but the truth is that number does not reflect what I believe is needed to properly educate the students of Wareham,” said Swett.

Committee member Joyce Bacchiocchi agreed. She called Sullivan’s decision to present the information in that manner “irresponsible.” She urged officials to compromise.

“It’s not us against them,” said Bacchiocchi. “We all have to work together.”

The hearing will be held at the School Committee’s Feb. 28 meeting, scheduled to start at 7 p.m. in Wareham Middle School.