School Budget

Mayor Knapik Goes on Offensive Against Finance Committee Cuts on WHYN

Mayork Knapik defended his budget and lampooned the Finance Committee for "leading from behind" for not recommending cuts to their own budget and salaries. Knapik said that he felt "really comfortable" with the financial health of the city and said that "our financial metrics are doing quite well in a lot of areas." The mayor explained that across the board cuts would not the way to pay down the debt saying "That's not the way municipal finance works."  The proper way to do that, he said, is to deposit money into the reserve account and that $1 million would be deposited into the reserve account tonight.

The mayor also described the harmful impact the cuts would have on public safety and particularly the city's school system which we highlighted last night.

To hear the full interview with the mayor click the "Play" button on the audio player. If you do not see the audio player in the grey box above click here to download the file and listen.

How the Finance Committee's Proposed Budget Will Hurt Our Schools

In a recent news story, TV-3 has featured what exactly the cuts will do to Westfield's schools and children. The cuts that will be made are as follows:

Reduction in high school sports schedule (league games) $50,000
Technology licenses (renewals of software programs) $85,000
20% cut in all school supplies $110,347
Student afterschool programs & teacher stipends $50,000
Late buses $139,653
Hardware budget $50,000
Math materials (textbooks and consumables) $200,000
Total cuts $685,000

 

Fear not the deficit crows! They are easily scared away.
Fear not the deficit crows! They are easily scared away.

Don't Feed the Deficit Crows!

***CORRECTION*** The Wednesday, June 19th meeting will be held at 6:30pm at South Middle School, not 7pm as originally posted.
 
We've all heard and seen a lot from the deficit crows. They travel together in huge flocks constantly cawing and squawking about big government budgets and big debt. You can't miss them as they seem to be everywhere.
Westfield's Mayor, Dan Knapik
Westfield's Mayor, Dan Knapik

Westfield Mayor to Discuss Budget Cuts on WHYN 560 at 7:15am Tomorrow (June 19)

Westfield Mayor, Daniel Knapik, will be making an appearance on WHYN 560's Brad and Bo Show at 7:15 am tomorrow morning to talk about the cuts proposed by the City Council's Finance Committee and the impact they will have on the school budget and other departments across the city of Westfield. We encourage all residents to listen in and find out how the cuts will affect their quality of life here in Westfield.

See video

Mayor Knapik: City Council's Cuts to Budget Will Mean $700K Cut to Schools

Mayor Daniel Knapik was interviewed on WSHM TV-3 just a short while ago and said that the budget cuts proposed by the City Council will mean a $700K to the school's budget and layoffs. A public school committee meeting will be held tonight at South Middle School's auditorium at 7pm to discuss the cuts. Residents are encouraged to attend. Commenting on the cuts, Mayor Knapik said, "I understand what they are trying to do but they kind of went about it in a reckless fashion."

The budget will be addressed at Wednesday's City Council meeting on Wednesday in the auditorium of South Middle School as well.

See video
Flaherty's motion for a resolution shot down

Two School-Related Motions Rebuffed by the City Council

Two motions put forward by City Councilor Flaherty, related to the operation of Westfield's schools, were soundly rejected by other City Councilor's Thursday night. As expected, a third motion to cut the school department budget was withdrawn by Flaherty before coming up for debate. Regarding the withdrawn motion, Councilor Flaherty said there was "no need" as a result of "a lot of productive conversations we've had this week."

Flaherty Changes Mind, Will Not Propose Cutting School Budget at Next Meeting

In an email to SWS earlier this evening, regarding a proposal to rescind approval for $744,345 for our schools, City Councilor Flaherty wrote that "I will be pulling this from the agenda. The actions and discussions over last couple weeks have led to meetings and cooperative efforts that may help satisfy our objectives without the need for this motion." Though we're unsure what specific meetings and efforts he refers to, SWS applauds Flaherty's decision.

This leaves two other Flaherty motions, reported here earlier, on the agenda tomorrow night; one motion to discuss the possibility of placing a 2 1/2% override on the ballot and another more vague proposal for a resolution regarding the school budget. In his email this evening, Flaherty provided a limited explanation about the resolution, saying, "I will introduce a one page resolution that relays the concerns of members of council and taxpayers to the School Committee."

SWS will be closely monitor debate at tomorrow's City Council meeting and post video of all relevant discussion concerning the school budget.

Withdrawal of School Funding Could Come Up for a Vote at Thursday's City Council Meeting

The agenda for Thursday's meeting is out and it contains a "motion of Councilor Flaherty relative to school budget appropriation." This agenda item appears to be Councilor Flaherty's follow-up to a failed attempt at the last City Council meeting to rescind $744,345 in school budget money that was originally approved back in July.

It's unclear what kind of support Councilor Flaherty has from other City Councilors. City Councilor James Brown, in a response to an email from Save Westfield Schools last weekend, wrote, "I will not be supporting any measure to 'recover the money', as this is not realistic nor a remedy that is available to the Council." Save Westfield Schools encourages other City Councilors to do the same.

Flaherty will also be introducing two additional proposals at Thursday's meeting related to the school budget:

  • The first is a request for the City Council's evaluation of a Proposition 2 1/2 override "to fund school department performance-based salary increases in excess of 2 1/2% per year." Last week, in an online forum, Councilor Flaherty wrote, "I'm going to propose a Prop 2 1/2 override that is targeted at providing additional salary money for the school department (to pay for raises that exceed 2.5%)." In another comment he wrote, "I'm not proposing to support the measure, just to have the opportunity to get it on the ballot to give the voters a chance to let their feelings be known in a quantifiable way. I think the measure would fail by a huge margin."

    As we have pointed out, Flaherty's suggestion to that teacher salaries should not go above 2.5% is based on his very flawed analysis of how step increases affect the school budget. Other than for grandstanding, we see no value to this proposal whatsoever.
     
  • His second proposal is "for approval of resolution to Westfield School Committee relative to negotiating and executing contracts that place further financial burdens on an already stressed school department budget." It's unclear what Councilor Flaherty has in mind here. We will have to wait and see.

Why Step Increases Do Not Cost the City of Westfield More Money, Take 2

Save Westfield Schools is disheartened to see Councilor Flaherty still claiming on an online forum that step increases, even though they were frozen this year, will lead to spiraling teacher salaries.

We admit that it does sound counterintuitive. How can you possibly give many teachers raises year after year without teacher salaries eventually eating up the entire budget? We did our best to explain how in this post. Mr. Flaherty's response was to email us and accuse us of being "manipulative." Interestingly, he did not attempt to dispute our facts.

School Department Report Countering Flaherty Coming on Monday

We received word from a city official yesterday that the school department will be issuing a report to counter Flaherty's public statements about the school budget. We will post the report here as soon as it is made available to us.

Save Westfield Schools Finds Flawed Logic in Flaherty's Contract Analysis

In a second email exchange with Councilor Flaherty last weekend, Save Westfield Schools has determined that Councilor Flaherty has a fundamentally flawed analysis of the true cost of Westfield teachers' step and track increases to the City.

Flaherty Responds to Save Westfield Schools' Inquiry About His $5 million Cost Assertion

This past weekend, Save Westfield Schools had a lengthy email exchange with Councilor David Flaherty regarding his statements that the new teacher's contract would cost "$8400 per person over the life of this agreement" and cost the city "over $5 million."

But contrary to Flaherty's statement at last week's City Council meeting, SWS was able to determine that the extra $5 million cost would not be incurred over one year—the length of the current contract—but over a period of decades, on the order of at least 30 years or 40 years. That's because the extra cost comes from a $500 increase in the annual longevity benefit for teachers who work in the Westfield school system for more than 15 years. Even if we use a very conservative estimate that approximately half of Westfield's 570 teachers are eligible for the longevity benefit in any given year (for FY2011, it's actually less than 1/3, or about 180), it would take a little over 35 years before the extra longevity payout costs would reach Mr. Flaherty's $5 million figure. And even with a conservative estimate  of $60 million average budget over the next 35 years (the FY2011 budget is about $52 million), the $5 million figure amounts to only a 0.2% increase in the total cost of the school budget.
 
View the email exchange with Councilor Flaherty in its entirety. 

Teachers Counter Flaherty's Allegations

Late Thursday evening, City Councilor David Flaherty made allegations that Westfield school administrators and the Westfield Education Association covered-up and misrepresented the terms of the new teacher's union contract negotiated in July. Today, the WEA released a statement to counter Flaherty's charges and called him out for "present[ing] erroneous inflammatory information that suits his need, be contrary and incendiary with people who could help him gain the correct information, and go out of his way to create adversarial relationships with other elected officials and bodies, rather than alliances."

Flaherty Says School Committee and Teachers Union "Snookered" City Council and Public

After last night's City Council meeting, in an email sent to all Westfield City Councilors, Councilor David Flaherty continued his serious accusations that the school department deceived the City Council and the public. He also implicated the teacher's union in a cover-up over what was in the contract. He wrote, "We got snookered, and the teachers union and the school department have mislead [sic] the public."

Flaherty also explicitly stated his intention to call for a vote to "recover the over $700,000 that the council approved for the school department based on intentionally misleading information provided us." The email contained a photocopy of the Memorandum of Understanding along with his opinion that there were costs negotiated into the contract that were hidden from the public to the tune of "over $5 million." As pointed out earlier by SWS, the WEA made the Memorandum of understanding public on their website since at least August 23rd.

Westfield Schools to Receive $1.4 Million in Federal Stimulus Money

You know that nice little lift you get when you find a wad of cash in a winter coat or spring jacket you haven't worn for months? It's a great feeling because for once you have money unexpectedly coming in instead of always going out. Well, that's about how we feel here at SWS because Westfield has a good-sized chunk of completely unanticipated cash coming its way! According to an aide to Senator Knapik, Peter Miller, Westfield will receive $1.4 million in funding by way of the federal government. And it couldn't have come at a better time with all the cutbacks and layoffs we've had as a result of withering tax revenues during this economic downturn.  Out of a total current budget of around $52 million, $1.4 million represents a very significant amount of money for us. Save Westfield Schools will be following up with school officials to determine what jobs will be saved by this windfall. According the an article appearing in the Boston Globe, the money should be hitting in a few weeks.

Westfield Schools Saved!

By a unanimous vote, 12-0, the City Council did the right thing and voted to place $744,345 in the budget to offset the money it cut back in June. Several councilor's mentioned the numerous emails they had received on the issue. So great job everyone!

There is much more work to be done, however.  Our schools are not out of the woods yet. We'll be counting on you to stay informed and involved in the process. Please check back here frequently to stay tuned on the latest news. We'll also be sending out periodic emails when there are other interesting developments. So if you haven't already, please sign up for our email updates.

Thanks again!

City Council Special Meeting Set for 7pm on Thursday

The City Council will be holding a special meeting to vote on a recommendation from the mayor that $744,345 be placed into the school budget. As mentioned earlier, a super majority, or 2/3 of all city councilors present, is needed to pass the recommendation. All 13 city councilors are eligible to vote. The meeting will be held at City Hall located at 59 Court Street.

Save Westfield Schools is asking that all concerned Westfield residents turn out to this vote to ensure the recommendation wins passage. We need to send a strong message to the City Council just how important this issue is to us. We also urge you to contact all city councilors before the vote to make sure they do the right thing on Thursday.

IMPORTANT! CALL YOUR CITY COUNCILORS BETWEEN NOW AND JULY 29

If you've never sent a message to an elected official in your life, this is a perfect time to get involved because you can make a huge difference in the lives of Westfield's children.

This coming Thursday, the City Council will take a vote on restoring funding to our schools. Tell them you want them to vote "yes" to fund the $744,000 that is on the table and give all of it to the school department. Be sure to tell them to vote on it with no strings attached and no more reckless negotiating tactics.

Click here to learn how to contact the City Councilors. And remember, all thirteen City Councilors will be voting, not just eight.

Although the the teachers accepted deep cuts, we still need the City Council to restore funding to Westfield's schools. We need nine votes to win. If just 5 City Councilors vote no, Shirley Alvira says the budget money will have to be cut because the beginning of the school year is approaching fast. If we lose this vote, it will mean that many of the drastic cuts in services discussed last week will be implemented. Those cut discussed included:

  • Laying off all librarians
  • Defunding of art and music programs
  • Defunding of athletic programs
  • Laying off all guidance counselors

So, get your fingers dialing and fire up your email, let's roll out, troops! If you hear from a City Councilor, please contact us so that we can keep tabs on where they stand. Together we can win!

Go right now to learn how to contact the City Councilors!

Again, all thirteen City Councilors will be voting, not just eight.

All Thirteen City Councilors Are Eligible to Vote on Restoring School Funds; Nine Votes Needed to Win

According to the Westfield Evening News, a State Ethics ruling which barred 5 City Councilors from voting on whether or not to cut funds from the school budget will not apply to the vote this coming Thursday. This next vote will restore funding to the School Department. Since nine votes will be required to place the money into the budget, the City Councilors will be eligible to vote now because of a so-called "Rule of Necessity," because if five Councilors were ineligible, it would not be possible for the measure to receive nine votes.

Westfield school cuts over union conflict total $1.8 million

TV 40 Coverage

As published on WGGB.com:

"Mayor Daniel Knapik said the move on the part of the council to institute a budget cut for the schools is unjustifiable, and could result in the closing of Juniper Park School. Other measures that could be necessary include the elimination of art and music programs at every level and the loss of teachers, counselors and coaches."

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