© 2024
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Northampton city council approves school budget amid concerns over cuts

City of Northampton

One of the last pieces of budget business wrapped up in the City of Northampton, Massachusetts this week. The city council approved extra funding for the school district, following last month’s failed budget vote that sidelined it.

The Northampton City Council voted to restore $1.1 million dollars for schools Tuesday, with some wishing next year's budget season will be different.

The special session, held remotely, featured the council approving amendments from Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra that were put forward last month. 

The amendments date back to June 6, and came amid calls by local educators, residents and city councilors to secure more funding for Northampton Public Schools.

Trying to plug what she considered a $4.77 million deficit for NPS, the mayor’s initial budget featured $39.6 million for schools – an increase of at least $3 million compared to fiscal year 2024. 

But critics, including the Northampton Association of School Employees emphasized that a number of jobs would still be cut in the district to plug the gap – and called for more funding. 

With funding from stabilization funds, as well as a gift from Smith College, $1.1 million was added via amendment - though NASE union members and others said around 20 roles would still be eliminated.

Still asking if more stabilization funds could be allotted on Tuesday, Ward 3 City Councilor Quaverly Rothenberg cited the work of school committee members when she asked if the mayor would consider adding close to half a million dollars.

“- if they had an additional $466,000, they would be able to avoid the most devastating of the cuts that are ahead of us, and so I wonder if the mayor may be willing to increase the use of the Special Education [Stabilization] Fund by another $150,000, and then to make up the difference from a stabilization fund, to get us up to an additional $466,000, that the school committee can work with when they reconvene,” the councilor said.

The proposal appeared to be shot down, as Sciarra pointed out the school committee has already voted and approved on the budget at-hand.

“The school committee has already voted this, the bottom line - contingent on this being voted today - the bottom amount, or the total amount that's in this order,” the mayor said. “So that's what they're looking at.”

 Rothenberg, Ward 4 Councilor Jeremy Dubs and Council Vice President Rachel Maiore were among the council members to vote “no” on the amended fiscal year 2025 in late June, seeking another way to get more funding for schools and reduce staff cuts.

While the council voted 5-3 in favor of passing it, the budget came one vote short of the needed majority due to Council President Alex Jarrett abstaining. Jarrett explained that a conflict arose due to the budget involving an organization he belongs to.

By default, the mayor’s May budget, totaling $137 million and sans school funding amendments, became the spending plan when fiscal year 2025 started on July 1. 

Tuesday's vote to re-add the amendments was unanimous, though it came after councilors like Dubs expressed frustration with the whole budget season.

“I felt like this entire budget process has felt very rushed, and I wish that we had had more time for discussion, overall,” the councilor said. “I’m voting yes because I think that we should have as much funding as possible for the schools - I hope that we can do better next time for the next budget process. I feel like we should maybe start earlier in the discussion, given that it’s been basically only about a month-and-a-half since we were presented the mayor’s budget on May 16.”

The same night the amended budget failed to pass, the council did approve putting a $3 million operating override on this year’s state election ballot in November, intended to fund the operating budgets of the city and public schools next fiscal year.

Related Content