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School Committee Adopts Budget with 2 Percent Increase, But Still has Cuts

Committee members said the budget figure is realistic, but hope to get more money for the Watertown Schools.

Tuesday night, The Watertown School Committee approved a fiscal 2012 budget request for a 2 percent increase over this year, but with a small caveat.

The $37.6 million budget, although it has more money than this year, would cut some positions and parts of programs. Along with the two percent, School Committee Vice President John Portz added “to further request every effort be made by the town to provide the schools with another half a percent, or $165,000 to cover the enrollment increase.”

The vote taken at the meeting at Watertown High School, was the end of months of meetings and hours of work by School Committee members and school administrators.

Portz said he feels comfortable with the proposal.

“It is a little beyond what the say we can have, and we can be hopeful that we get a little more,” Portz said. “There will be some impact on the district, but we will come out with a strong education system.”

School Committee Chairman Anthony Paolillo said he feels better than he did three weeks ago, and if the district does get the funding for the special education Circuit Breaker the picture could look much better.

If more money does come in, School Committee member Eileen Hsu-Balzer said she thinks the board should come up with a list of items that would be restored.

“My personal feeling is it should go for classroom teachers,” Hsu-Balzer said.

Lowell parent Jeremy Bell said the vote did not surprise him, but he was still disappointed.

“They seem to think that parents, by asking for more, don’t understand the circumstances,” Bell said. “But it is symbolic. They should ask for more, ask for what they need for the school district.”

Monday, parents pushed School Committee members to go for more than 2 percent.

School Committee member Laurie McManus said parents should press their legislators to support the Circuit Breaker. Hsu-Balzer seconded that thought.

“The Legislature may seem distant … but they really make the decision to give the money that would bring back the teachers,” Hsu-Balzer said.

The School Committee may have adopted their budget, but the Town Council has the final say, Paolillo said. Town Councilors will begin their budget discussions on April 26.

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