Greenfield City Council to vote on paraprofessional contract funding in January

Staff Writer
Published: 12/10/2019 10:27:50 PM

GREENFIELD — The paraprofessionals’ contract will not be voted on by the City Council until January, but the Greenfield School Committee will take it up Wednesday at its meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the John Zon Community Center.

According to the financial order submitted by Mayor William Martin, the contracts will cost a total of $349,099 for the first year. The order proposes using $169,099 from the city — specifically, from the Special Education Stabilization Account.

The proposed funding breakdown for the schools would be from the following accounts: $100,000 from special education tuition, $60,000 from School Choice tuition and $20,000 from preschool tuition.

“If the School Committee doesn’t vote these three allocations and agree to it, then the council will only have one allocation to fund,” Martin said. “They have the option to fund it and hope the School Committee in the future will come up with the rest of the money, or not fund it and reject it, in which case the School Committee will have to go back to negotiations.”

Martin also recommended, “any new hires be brought to the School Committee to indicate a funding source.”

The City Council will not vote on the paraprofessionals’ contract, also called Unit C, at its Dec. 17 or 18 meetings. A first reading is scheduled at the special City Council meeting Tuesday, Dec. 17. However, a second reading, public hearing and vote will not occur at the Dec. 18 meeting, but at the council’s regular meeting in January.

City Clerk Kathy Scott explained the process a financial order goes through in the city.

“In order to have a second reading and public hearing, we would need to post a legal notice in the newspaper 10 days prior to the meeting,” Scott said. “That deadline was Friday, Dec. 6.”

Scott said she had not received a request for a second reading and public hearing for Dec. 18, so both agenda items will be on the agenda for the council’s January meeting.

The Greenfield School Committee voted to ratify the contract for paraprofessionals at its Nov. 13 meeting.

The Greenfield School Committee and the paraprofessionals had come to a tentative agreement, which the paraprofessionals ratified in August. However, the School Committee had not voted as a board in agreement with that contract until November.

Ann Valentine, president of the Greenfield Education Association, disagrees with the use of the special education funds.

“The mayor has previously promised to fund at least half of the cost of the IA (instructional assistant) contract from city reserves, but last Friday he requested that the City Council appropriate the whole cost from the school’s special education budget, shortchanging the very students our IAs work so hard to support,” Valentine wrote. “Neither our IAs nor our students deserve to be stuck in the middle while Mayor Martin plays games with the budget.”

Martin listed the rationale for the financial order.

“Seventy-six percent to 77 percent of the Unit C staff are special education; additionally, stabilization accounts may be utilized for any lawful municipal purpose with a two-thirds vote of City Council,” Martin wrote. “The School Department carries forward one year of circuit breaker special education revenue ($978,368 for the 2020 fiscal year) which acts as a reserve.”

Martin added that the balances in the school revolving accounts are higher than the general stabilization account and that the Greenfield Education Association, Unit A, will also be submitting a new contract for funding.

Three other union contracts will need to start negotiation in January because the contracts expire June 30, according to the mayor’s office.

Martin said that when the contract stabilization fund began in 2012, its purpose was to “show all the collective bargaining units we would have funds available for negotiations.” Annually, money was added to the fund; however, at the close of the 2019 fiscal year, that process did not happen.

“We brought to the council the financial orders necessary to refill/replenish the contract stabilization fund,” Martin said. “There was no quorum at the (special City Council meeting on) July 15 and that process didn’t happen. The result of that deadline period was that a recap will have to take place because we don’t have the end-of-the-year closing and we didn’t transfer any money that we knew we had into different accounts.”

The Greenfield School Committee approved a $23 million all-funds budget in October, including the city’s $19 million contribution and $400,000 appropriated from multiple revolving accounts to cover a budget gap. At the time, it was unclear how the paraprofessionals’ contract would be funded.

Reach Melina Bourdeau at or 413-772-0261, ext. 263.

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