School budget shortfall?

Mayor Wedegartner has submitted a budget to the Greenfield City Council that falls far short of funding the negotiated raise for the teachers and aides at Greenfield Public Schools. But this raise comes after years of frozen wages and working without a contract, even while inflation has been surging at the highest rates in decades. Residents of Greenfield deserve and need strong schools, and that means adequate pay for teachers.

The mayor claims there’s no money to pay for the raises, but Paul Jablon shared the following suggestions of how to find adequate funding to cover the negotiated wages of our school personnel. Paul shared his budget analysis in an email he circulated, and we reprint it here as a guest post:

How Greenfield could get more money for their schools in the 2024 Budget

Greenfield has two parts of our city government that we elected, the mayors office and the City Council. Those parts should work hand in hand with one another. The way that the mayor’s office sets up the budget can either allow the city council some leeway and input into how Greenfield is spending its money next year, or it can place immovable impediments in the way of the city council having any say of where money should go. In my looking at the current 2024 budget suggested by the mayors office, it appears to be stopping the city council from having any substantial input. I have consulted with a few others on the facts and figures presented here, and they agree that this is an accurate statement. 

I am attaching to this e-mail the 2024 Budget RECAP presented by the mayor where the levy capacity the way it is currently figured leaves the City Council with only $17,504 to add to budget items.

First let’s examine the “Cherry Sheet Estimates.” These  are the best estimate of the amount of state aid and assessments provided annually by the MA Commissioner of Revenue.

As you can see from the attached, the Cherry sheet estimates are published on the 2024 RECAP from the Greenfield finance director as $20,656,992. The February 2023 estimated from Maura Healy’s office is actually  $21,010,769.  

That is additional revenue of $353,837.

Now let’s look at the “local receipts” line item. As you can see from the additional years budgets that are part of this spreadsheet, the local receipts have exceeded estimates for the last 4 years:

The 2022 estimate was $4,504,000. The actual local receipts was $5,606,015.

In 2023 the estimate is $4,760,300. Obviously the actuals are not in yet as fiscal year 2023 is not over. Some folks have spoken with the treasurer and we appear to be definitely on track.

On the recap sheet, we decreased the estimate for local receipts by $190,412. We should have added to that figure because we were 1 million over last year. Local receipts estimate was $3,869,888. It should be conservatively $4,220,000. 

That is additional revenue of $350,112.

The next area is “free cash.” This is the term used for the portion of a community’s fund balance that is available for appropriation by city government.

The balance is listed as $595,521. I am told we must subtract a transfer of $206,850 which will be sent to the public schools to fund the retro contract payments. This leaves a balance of $388,671. Recently the mayor changed the funding source on two orders that were given to the capital improvement committee. When they were given to the capital improvement committee, the funding source was listed as capital stabilization. This makes sense as we currently have over $2 million in capital stabilization.

One was the Legion Avenue parking lot repaving for $55,000. Then the mayor requested a change from capital stabilization to free cash for funding this. The second is an overhang and stair replacement at the police department for $30,000. The mayor also requested a change from capital stabilization to free cash for funding. Both these items appear to be necessary, and should not be voted on from free cash in my opinion. 

If money is taken from capital stabilization for these projects, the balance will be $388,671.  If money is taken from free cash to complete those projects, the balance is $303,671 (leaving $38,000 roughly for an emergency). We have over $5 million in stabilization accounts currently so if there is an emergency we certainly can find it.

That is additional revenue of  $350,000. 

The total additional revenue of those three calculations would change the Levy limit in a positive way by slightly over $1 million instead of the currently figured $17, 504.

This would allow the two parts of our government to work in a coordinated way with one another. I voted for my city councilors in addition to my vote for a mayor. I would like both of these aspects of Greenfield Government to weigh in on what we allocate to the services in our city. 

We could reallocate almost a million additional dollars into our school budget so we wouldn’t have to lay off teachers, Special Education personnel, and other much needed assets in a school system that has been underfunded for over 2 decades. 

I am asking the mayor to submit an alternate budget as noted above, or at least one that honors these principles. 

If you agree, I suggest that you do the same, and likewise forward this to others in your life, or organizations to which you belong.

Paul Jablon, Greenfield

Use these links to contact the mayor and city council.