School budget changes possible

Published 9:58 pm Monday, March 20, 2017

A special School Board meeting Tuesday to approve the budget could include discussion of possible changes, some members said on Monday.

The statements came after weeks of backlash against a 13-percent raise granted to the superintendent last year, contrasted with the average 2.4-percent raises proposed in the budget for school division staff.

School Board member David Mitnick said he has proposed asking the city for additional money to fund an additional 1-percent increase for all employees except those in administrative, supervisory or managerial positions.

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“I believe that if we don’t ask the city for what we want, we’ll never get it,” he said.

The proposed budget already includes asking the city for an additional $2 million in local funding from the city, which provided $53.8 million last year. It’s not yet clear how much more Mitnick’s proposal would cost.

Health costs also are rising, meaning some will lose money from their take-home pay.

“A lot of these people could save money if they would look at the new insurance policies, but they’re just not as good as what we’ve been offering,” Mitnick said, adding that many people he has talked to have young children and are hesitant to scale back health insurance coverage.

School Board member Linda Bouchard also said she has been trying to figure out a way to give lower-paid employees more.

“I wanted us to all take another look at the way it was proposed and make sure we felt it was fair,” she said. “I’m concerned about making it equitable. Equality for one is not equality for another.”

Bouchard also said she is working on reducing teacher workload, as well.

“I’m more interested that the teachers not have to do redundant work,” she said. “That’s something I feel like I can help with.”

Mitnick also responded to criticism of a Facebook comment he made on a teacher’s post. In the comment, he said, “I guess the only thing that will make you all happy is that if we give each of you a $23,000 raise.” He also said that for 36 years, he was an educator and “put on my ‘Big Boy Pants’ and went to work.’”

Many teachers responded, saying the comments were demeaning and insulting.

“If I offended people, I apologize,” Mitnick said in a phone interview Monday. “I thought I was being cute, and apparently it was offensive.”

Also in the comment, Mitnick acknowledges feeling disrespected and underappreciated at times when he was an educator and goes on to call teachers “superheroes.”

Mitnick noted that the comment was taken out of the context of the exchange that had been taking place on social media. The screenshot has been re-posted widely, including being sent to the Suffolk News-Herald numerous times and posted on a Twitter account reportedly started by a student, @SPSprotest.

The current proposed budget totals $161 million.

Tuesday’s meeting will be held at 4 p.m. at the Pruden Center, 4169 Pruden Blvd.