Legislation gives Salem the ability to take final step in closing budget gap
BOSTON—Thursday, January 31, 2008—Governor Deval Patrick today signed legislation that will prevent the city of Salem from laying off dozens of school employees midway through the school year.
The bill filed by the Governor earlier this week grants the city the ability to close a budget gap discovered last fall after the departure of the school business manager. It allows the city to borrow up to $1 million or spread the deficit over seven years. Under current law, municipalities are prohibited from borrowing for operating expenditures or a known operating deficit.
“I am proud to sign this legislation today, and I thank the Legislature for its swift action,” said Governor Patrick. “The officials and residents of the city of Salem have done a fantastic job in the face of a very difficult challenge. They are a model for other communities grappling with tough fiscal circumstances, proving that through engagement, creative thinking, and partnership, municipalities can overcome these kinds of obstacles.”
Since discovering a $4.7 million budget deficit, city officials and residents have worked together to find ways to close the gap in ways that would minimize the impact on students and teachers. Officials found about $3.5 million through a combination of cuts, layoffs and new revenues, and are in the middle of a highly successful campaign to raise private money, collecting $300,000 so far, which has prevented the layoff of 14 teachers.
"These last few weeks have been difficult for all of us who care about delivering quality public education,” said Senator Frederick E. Berry. “I am grateful that Governor Patrick and his team recognized an opportunity to return the focus to education. This bill will ease the impact of the fate Salem was dealt. I also want to thank Senate President Murray, Speaker DiMasi and both legislative bodies for their swift action on behalf of Salem."
"Public education is the bedrock of every community. I want to thank Governor Patrick, Speaker DiMasi, Minority Leader Jones and Senator Berry for all their help in enacting this bill so quickly," said Representative John Keenan, whose two children attend the Salem public schools.
The bill also supports Mayor Driscoll’s plan to consolidate the administrative functions, including the finances, between the City and the schools.
“I thank the Patrick administration and the Legislature for acting quickly to pass this legislation,” said Mayor Kim Driscoll. “The budget shortfall brought this community together in a manner that I never imagined possible. We still have checks coming in on a daily basis and just about everyone is thinking of ways they can help - from raffling off patriot game tickets to band concerts and t-shirt sales. The local dollars generated, combined with the funding made possible by the state, will certainly aid in retaining jobs.”