Cambridge Schools Project $1M Deficit

Members of the Cambridge School Committee met last night with School Department officials and employees to present a budget with a projected deficit of over $1 million.

The proposed budget for the 1993-94 school year is almost $80 million. City Manager Robert Healy had limited it to approximately $78.5 million.

Cambridge School Superintendent Mary Lou McGrath, who presented the budget to the committee, said the shortfall was the result of a possible settlement of ongoing negotiations of teachers' contracts.

McGrath said although the settlement was still "tentative," increases in teachers' salaries and health insurance had been budgeted for the upcoming fiscal year in expectation of an agreement.

James Conry, the School Department's financial director, said "reductions and reallocations" of school resources would be necessary to close the budget gap.


Conry said the schools' primary source of funds in recent years has been the city's property tax, which is currently at its legal maximum. Cambridge residents would have to vote to override the 1981 proposition 2 1/2 in order to increase funds available for the school budget, according to Conry.

Although School Department officials had initially planned to add 11 new teaching positions next year, they reduced the number to four because of budget constraints, according to department spokesperson Francis Foley.

Instead of adding new positions, schools will combine students of different grade levels in "multigraded" classes and increase the average class size to 21 students per teacher, Foley said.

Cambridge school principals expressed concern last night that this budget reallocation would deprive schools of the resources they need.

Mary Mroz, principal of the Robert F. Kennedy School, said she felt her teachers were unprepared to teach classes of different grade levels because they had not received proper training.

"Father allow me to change staff or do not do multigrading. Mioz asked the School Committee.

Other principles said they believed staff reductions would harm innovative programming.

Donald L. Watson principal of the John M. Robin School, said, the proposed loss of the teacher at the middle school would incapacitate program he has developed the seen.

Watson said the Tobin school "is in an embryome stage of moving toward a middle school concept.

McGrath assumed Watson that the position would not be cut. "I must have misunderstood and I apologize," McGrath said.

Cambridge principals also stressed the need to restructure school buildings to meet the increased number of incoming students.

Edward R. Sarasin, the principal of Cambridge Rindge and Latin, said he aimed to "minimize costs" by using money left over from last year's budget to subsidize this year's expenses.

But McGrath warned that increased teacher salaries and benefits could not come without a trade-off.

"It's a very serious issue," McGrath said. We can't have both. Are we into saving people and not providing tools, or are we interested in the best possible tools?