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SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield School Committee voted at its May 2 special meeting to approve the fiscal year 2025 budget with an amendment to set aside funds for discussion on creating additional positions in the School Department.

The proposed operating budget totaled $625 million and included funds for supporting student social-emotional need, expanding pre-K access and adapting to the upcoming loss of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds, Superintendent Daniel Warwick stated.

“[In the budget], you’ll see, really, projects that each building came up with that enhance their particular program so, very proud of that. You’ll see $46.5 million in mental health, $8.3 million in fine arts, 10 more universal pre-K classes,” he said. Warwick also stated that the budget included no staff layoffs due to the use of ESSER funds for projects, rather than hiring staff.

Mayor Domenic Sarno commended the Springfield Public Schools administration for their work in creating the budget, highlighting Chief Financial and Operations Officer Patrick Roach, Warwick and Budget and Finance Committee Chair Chris Collins.

Prior to passing the full operating budget, the School Committee approved an amendment to the budget to reallocate $200,000 from the reserve contingency fund to the School Committee’s line item, as proposed by Collins. In stating his motion, Collins explained that the idea was raised during the Budget and Finance Committee’s meeting directly before the School Committee met on May 2.

While additional money could be taken from FY24’s carryover funds, the funds should not be taken exclusively from carryover funds since the prospective positions would be permanent, Collins said.

School Committee member LaTonia Monroe-Naylor further explained that the funds were discussed as potentially being used to hire external legal counsel and create a secretarial position to exclusively support the School Committee. Naylor is also a member of the Budget and Finance Committee.

She emphasized that Springfield Public Schools previously utilized external legal counsel but decided to move the counsel internally “to try to save money.” As a result, this created a “constant conflict of interest,” Naylor stated. She went on to say that the proposed external legal counsel could be utilized in addition to the current internal legal counsel.

In response, Sarno questioned whether this would create a new conflict of interest between the two legal counsels. Naylor disagreed, stating that there would not create a conflict because the counsels would be focused on different areas and it would be “beneficial to have that diversity of opinion and conversation.”

After discussion, the School Committee voted to approve the amendment with only members Denise Hurst and Joesiah Gonzalez voting against the motion.

Gonzalez and Hurst later motioned to table the full operating budget in favor of first discussing the proposed positions further. However, this motion failed.

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