No Arrest During Belmont PD/State Police Action On Channing Road

Photo: A screenshot from a video on several social media sites showing the police action that took place on Channing Road in Belmont on Saturday, Feb. 10.

For residents of Cross Street and Channing Road, Saturday’s false spring was greeted with a phalanx of law enforcement blocking the roadways as several police agencies descended on the neighborhood adjacent to Belmont Center, seeking a possible suspect in a suspected shooting that took place 65 miles away the night before.

At approximately 9:30 a.m., on Feb. 10, a tactical vehicle from the Massachusetts State Police was parked in the middle of the intersection of Channing and Cross with heavily armed officers in combat gear directing people from a residence. One person in a video uploaded to social media was assisted away from the house.

As of Sunday morning, no arrests were reported as part of the action.

“Today, the Belmont Police Department assisted the Massachusetts State Police in executing a search warrant at a residence in Belmont,” said Belmont Police Chief James MacIsaac in a press release on Saturday.

MacIsaac said ”the circumstances prompting the issuance of the search warrant did not transpire within Belmont’s jurisdiction, [c]onsequently, there is no cause for concern regarding criminal activity in Belmont.” MacIsaac referred all inquires to the Bristol County District Attorney, which has yet to make a statement.

Social media has been actively speculating on the “Who, What, When, Why and Where” of Saturday’s action incident. Many agreed with noted attorney Wendy Murphy who wrote that it was “Related to a gang murder in Fall Riverr.”

The most recent shooting in Fall River occurred on Friday, Feb. 9, where a 34-year-old man was found suffering from gunshot wounds, according to Fall River police. The victim was taken to a trauma center in critical condition.

The last murder in Fall River occurred on Dec. 23 when a 44-year-old man was shot and killed on a porch, according to the Fall River Herald. A Connecticut man was later arrested in that case.

Select Board Sends $8.4M Override To Voters With A Compact In Tow

Photo: The Select Board voting to present a $8.4 million override to voters at the town’s annual Election in April

After Belmont’s Select Board voted unanimously on Tuesday morning, Jan. 30 to place an $8.4 million override on the ballot at the annual Town Election, Board Chair Roy Epstein believed their decision will be seen by the town’s voters as the necessary course to take.

“We’re relying basically on our experiences what might work,” said Epstein after the vote. “Some people have indicated they would like it to be smaller [amount]. Others said they would like it to be larger. So I’m hoping that means we landed at the right place.”

After nearly six months of meetings, public events, and the decision to pegging how much the “ask” of residents came down to two competing figures: a $7.5 million override that would protect the current level of full-time positions in the town and schools, and $8.4 million, which will allow the town and schools to invest in specific area. In the end, the Select Board settled on what they consider is necessary to carry the town over the next three years.

“We appreciate the concerns that some residents have expressed to me,” said Mark Paolillo, who will be retiring from the board at the April election. “But I think [the override] is absolutely needed in order for us to continue to serve the residents and provide services that they expect.”

“This is not an irresponsible number,” said Elizabeth Dionne to the half dozen residents attending the Town Hall meeting. “It is a painful number.”

According to Jennifer Hewitt, the town’s financial director and assistant town administrator, with the town committed to the override, the town and school district can now release their fiscal year 2025 budgets, on Friday, Feb. 2. The Select Board, School and Warrant Committee will meet Thursday, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall for the fourth Budget Summit at which time the fiscal ’25 budget will be presented.

The expected override is by no means a surprise, as the town has been struggling for more than a decade with a structural budget deficit created by ever-increasing expenses and a difficulty to raise sufficient revenue with annual property tax increases capped at 2 1/2 percent. Add to that, the board has inherited a number of costly such as a large and growing pension fund liability.

With a $6 million cliff facing the town in fiscal ’25, even a “level” budget that seeks to keep personnel and services at the previous year’s proportions would require a significant increase in funding.

While the funds will fill the budget deficit in the next three years, the board views the largest override in Belmont’s history in terms of an investment that in the long run will benefit both the town and schools. Epstein noted “a potential for restructuring certain activities to free up monies to deploy them more effectively.” Case in point: School Superintendent Jill Geiser plans to use the extra funding to lay a foundation with added Special Education staffing and planning with the goal to reduce the number of students being placed “out-of-district” for their schooling, which Dionne said is the greatest financial burdens facing future school budgets.

Agreeing to the larger override amount “is the starting point of making that investment with potential long-term benefits,” said Warrant Committee Chair Geoff Lubien.

“That’s why I believe the $8.4 million is necessary to make that even a possibility,” said Epstein.

The alternative to the override would be cataclysmic to all municipal and educational functions in Belmont. A forecasting exercise on the impact of a “no” vote would force painful cuts in staffing and programs in public safety, public works, library and all other town services while the schools would see significant reduction in staff as students will be without extra curriculum activities, the elimination of popular classes and higher students-to-teacher ratios.

“It’s really easy to destroy institutions, it’s very difficult to rebuild,” said Dionne. “If we don’t have a successful override, we will lose a cadre of talent we cannot replace easily. It will cost us far more to rebuild and to maintain.”

Acknowledging the large “ask” of residents, the Select Board will attempt to placate voters anxiety voting for the override by “hammering out” what is being called a compact with the community. Under this informal agreement, the board, school committee and other town entities will work together to implement policies – such as revamping zoning bylaws to facilitate business creation – and initiatives to manage expenses in an attempt to “bend the curve” of ever rising costs all the while look for ways to maximize revenues.

“What we [as a town] have to be … is faster, better, smarter,” said Dionne.

Under the compact, the Select Board will commit funds to specific public concerns. One discussed Tuesday is appropriating override dollars to repair and replace the town’s threadbare and increasingly unsafe sidewalks, which have been a lament among residents for nearly two decades.

The compact will also “force us to be more fiscally disciplined” using one-time funds such as free cash and from out-of-town sources such as government grants, according to Lubien.

Let’s Have Coffee And A Chat With The New School Supers: Jill Geiser and Lucia Sullivan

Photo: (from left) Belmont School District’s new superintendents: Jill Geiser and assistant Lucia Sullivan

The Belmont School District invites residents for a coffee and conversation with its new superintendents: Jill Geiser and Assistant Lucia Sullivan.

You can attend the meet and greet in person at the School Administration Building, 644 Pleasant St. on the following days and times:

  • Wednesday, Aug. 9: 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
  • Friday, Aug. 11: 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.
  • Thursday, Sept. 14: 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Light refreshments will be served!

Virtual Meeting Zoom: Click here to Join

  • Tuesday, Sept. 26: Noon to 1:30 p.m.

Please RSVP for Planning Purposes: Meet & Greet RSVP

More meeting opportunities with Jill and Lucia to come.

Belmont High Graduates 315 In The Misty Chill Of Harris Field

Photo: Caps tossed into the overcast as Belmont High School graduated 315 in the Class of 2023.

In weather more attuned for a fall football game, parents, siblings, relatives, and friends bundled up to witness the graduation of the members of the senior class of Belmont High School on Saturday, June 3.

The anticipated rain never came during the event, but the mist, wind, and 50-degree weather put an unseasonable chill on the ceremony underway at 10 a.m. outdoors at Harris Field. Retiring Superintendent John Phelan and retiring Assistant Superintendent Janice Darias (“I’m finally graduating,” she said before the ceremony) lead the long crimson procession for a final time from the high school to the field with the Belmont High School Wind Symphony playing Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance.”

With parents and friends taking photos and umbrellas opening in the stands and on the field, the graduates strode down the 50-yard line to their seats in the center of the field, where the ceremony began with the Belmont High Chorus performing the National Anthem.

In his speech, Belmont High School Principal Issac Taylor addressed the assemblage the “fear and uncertainty in a world that is undergoing enormous changes compressed into one generation.” And while these “new tools are powerful and where there is power, there is both opportunity and danger.”

“Technology responds to you, and you respond to it. And the ease with which you navigate the modern world is a dynamic tool that will help you succeed. You will also be the people who helped steer the direction we take as a species, how we use this technology, and to what ends. This is an enormous responsibility and a great opportunity,” said Taylor.

“I hope that you all find your version of success. In a world that is changing so quickly, defining a successful life can be elusive. Like happiness, success comes from within. Partly success and happiness comes from the skills that we develop. Partly they come from the experiences that we have. But mostly being successful comes not from the pride of what we know and what we can do.”

Class of 2023 President Nicky Mosharaf reminded her classmates and graduates, “the most abundant challenge for us this year was making a tough decision. Deciding which college you’re going to go to, if you’re going to go to college.”

“However, we haven’t gotten to life’s hardest decisions yet. From what I’ve seen, I think the most difficult life decisions are the ones where you have to decide whether to give up or not. Usually the first thing that comes to mind is never give up,” said Mosharaf, using her mother’s decision to return to school to seek her MBA with two small children and an infant.

“On the other hand, there’s a second option to give up. I know it doesn’t sound as motivational as never give up. But I think sometimes it can be better to scrap the current plan and go down a new path. Maybe sometimes it is better to give up.,” she said, remembering how she decided gymnastics wasn’t her cup of tea.

“So deciding between the two options is tough, and there’s no specific Tiktok that’s gonna give us the right answer,” she said. “Whether we give up or not … is not as important as we think. The most important thing is to make your decision positively and take joy in your decision and what you do.”

The Belmont School Committee awards for outstanding achievement and scholarship were presented to seniors Leo Son and Ana Lehmann. Son, whose accomplishments in the classroom and as a student leader run an entire printed page: he is a math and STEM scholar, took 11 AP courses, and plays and teaches chess, among numerous other accomplishments.

“And I’m sure many of us were thinking about this idea on our last day of high school, navigating thethe hallways for the last time on route from yellow to light blue to pink, already missing the comfort of a weekly club, where you found a community that you belong to.”

“But as this meeting place for all of us comes to an end … be proud of how far you’ve come. Remember all the connections and routines we’ve let slip by, and we look forward to the opportunity to find a new lunch table for the first time and new club communities again next year or sooner. Do not let go of what you’ve gained from the sources of joy that you once knew and grasp more tightly onto the experiences we have now.”

When Lehmann – an international Math Olympian, a harrier, and a talented German speaker whose language proficiency is at the university level – heard she would be receiving the award and expected to make a speech, “I procrastinated.” While admitting she was “mostly excited and honored to be speaking,” the suggested subject concerning the future was “nerve-racking.”

“What can I, a 17-year-old, impart to an audience – at least half of which has much more life experience than me – about the future? I don’t even know which college I’m going to in the fall!” Instead, Lehmann decided to speak “about the uncertainty of it all.”

Lehmann spoke of her parent’s immigration story – her Serbian mother and German father who came to the US and met in Pennsylvania – and how their journey became hers. “I’ll technically follow in their footsteps as immigrants. They didn’t know what to expect when they came here. And like many of us here today, we don’t know exactly what’s awaiting us at college.”

“On the journey into our inherantly uncertain futures, we can choose familiar constants to keep with us and help us along the way, whether it be family, friends, mentors, pets, or even hobbies. We’re not all about to be immigrants, but we are all starting an exciting and unknown new chapter in a new environment with new labels of high school, graduate or college students,” she said.

A rendition of “Landslide” by the Belmont High A Capella was followed by the presentation of diplomas – the names masterfully handled by Mosharaf – then the moving of tallases and tossing of caps into the air. And it wasn’t surprising that not that many people stuck around Harris Field as the chilly wind picked up had the clouds grew dark.

All District Art Show Opening Reception Tuesday, May 2 At Belmont High

Photo: By Adam Arredouani, AP 2D Design

The Belmont school district’s annual K-12 Art Show will hold its opening reception at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 2, at the Belmont High School lobby and cafeteria.

Here is an opportunity to view the artistic talent in all 13 grades in Belmont in visual, photographic, and ceramic arts.

Frankie Edmonds

Schools Leave Empty Handed As Select Board/Warrant Committee To Place Added Local Aid To Free Cash

Photo: Educators attend a recent Select Board/Warrant Committee joint meeting at Town Hall

On March 1, Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey filed her state budget proposal with increases in Chapter 70 local aid, in which Belmont would receive an additional $1.4 million net for fiscal ’24, which begins July 1. And the boost in aid could not have come at a better time for the schools, the largest of the town’s departments.

Facing a $2.1 million deficit that could see nearly two dozen teachers, educators, and administrators losing their jobs and positions failing to be hired, the school district and Belmont School Committee placed their hopes that some portion of the governor’s largess would be directed to education.

But in a joint meeting held Monday night, March 20, the Belmont Select Board and the Warrant Committee (the Town Meeting’s fiscal watchdog) voted to cap the amount of free cash to use in the fiscal ’24 budget – which tops off at $138.3 million – at slightly more than $10 million. As for the added money coming from the governor’s budget, $600,000 would be allocated to the district’s depleted Special Education reserve account, with the remainder carried forward into the town’s free cash account.

At the end of the night, the schools will be asked to fill the $2.1 million deficit with the planned job cuts.

John Sullivan, head of the Belmont Education Association, who attended the meeting with two dozen teachers and administrators carrying signs calling to keep current staff, said the decision, if unaltered, will be felt in the classrooms.

“Free cash should be spent on what we need right now, and right now, we need it for staffing,” Sullivan said after the meeting. “Your kids are the ones that are ultimately impacted by these cuts.”

The town has allocated more than two-thirds of the $15 million in free cash it stockpiled over the past decade into the general budget with the schools being the chief driver, having witnessed an unprecedented 12.7 percent increase in expenses in fiscal ’24. The School District points out the record rise as a combination of two significant factors: the cost of opening the new Middle School on Concord Avenue and a historic jump in Special Education expenditures, specifically Out-of-District placement of students, that hit the budget hard.

The decision to squirrel away all future state funds is due to the realities the town is facing that it will be facing an $11 million shortfall in fiscal ’25 and $12 million in fiscal ’26. Current calculations show the town will have $5 million in the rainy day fund in fiscal ’25.

By marshaling all available state aid into free cash now, according to town officials, reduce the size of the Proposition 2 1/2 override request set to be on the ballot next April. Observers believe voters will not be amenable to a double-digit request, pointing to the rejected override this month by Newton voters that would have closed its school district’s $6 million budget gap.

“We know we need to have an override for fiscal ’25,” said Jennifer Hewitt, the town’s assistant town administrator and finance director. “But the goal is to try to make that number a winnable number” so the town isn’t stuck with “really, really bad decisions” if the override fails.

“We need to think about next year,” said Mark Paolillo, Select Board chair.

And having reserves in free cash will be critical in the worst-case scenario if voters bail on an override. The account will be used to mitigate what soon-to-be Select Board member Elizabeth Dionne described as a possible “blood bath” where the town and school district will see entire departments and services decimated with a back of the envelope calculations predicting a 10 percent cut in teaching positions.

While sympathetic to town and schools requests, Adam Dash – who will be giving up his seat on the board on April 4 – said “it’s a very dire situation, and unfortunately, it’s a bit of a zero-sum game at this point” as the town seeks a fiscally prudent solution. “The problem is that we need to bank some money and not deplete the entire savings account, what free cash is.”

But to School and Warrant Committee member Michael Crowley, the policy is a Faustian pact in which educators and programs are put on the chopping block to prepare for a future unknown. And like Oliver Twist with a bowl in hand, Crowley urged the town to find “just $500,000” to preserve posts such as teacher assistants in the elementary schools that the district has targeted for redundancy.

“Another half million in the spirit of compromise won’t destroy the bank,” said Crowley as educators in the room applauded.

But Garvin warned funds transferred from free cash to the schools would need to be offset with cuts elsewhere.

The one glimmer of hope for school advocates and educators is the likelihood that the Massachusetts House and Senate will join Healey in boosting local aid allocations in the next iteration of their budgets in the coming month. While Garvin stood firm on the town’s intention to slot any additional local aid to free cash, Select Board’s Roy Epstein was receptive to using a portion of any additional revenue from Beacon Hill towards the schools.

Steve Sloan, a Goden Street resident with a child in the district, said it’s honestly disrespectful to the parents to talk about putting all this extra money into free cash without even knowing how much you have” until the state budget is finalized.

“When you’ve got all these cuts on the table. I think that’s a bad optic and you’re sending a terrible message. At least take a compromise solution when you know how much you have.”

Letter To The Letter: Adding Superintendent Candidates To Search Committee List An Effective Decision

Photo: The school administration building in Belmont

On behalf of the Belmont School Committee, I would like to thank Geoff Lubien and every other member of the Belmont Superintendent Screening Committee (SSC) for their diligence in fulfilling their charge of presenting up to three qualified finalists to the School Committee. As Lubien explained in his recent piece, the SSC spent many hours over six weeks reviewing 22 applications, selecting and interviewing five semi-finalists, and recommending two finalists to the School Committee. They operated on a tight timeline that has become common as school districts throughout Massachusetts compete for high quality leadership in a time when the market is volatile. 

The School Committee was thrilled to interview the two recommended finalists. After learning that one of Belmont’s candidates dropped out before the finalists were selected and seeing finalists withdraw from superintendent searches in Newton and Somerville, the School Committee made the informed decision to invite the other semi-finalists identified by the SSC to interview as well. We made this decision after hours of deliberation in an effort to fulfill our obligation to Belmont students and citizens to find the best possible superintendent for our schools. It turned out to be an effective decision as the pool narrowed even further when only three candidates accepted our invitation. 

The candidates who accepted our invitation met with the public, students, and the School Committee. Since the interviews, School Committee members have been gathering feedback from the community and conducting thorough reference checks, all in an effort to determine whether the remaining candidates meet the criteria identified by the Belmont community. 

The Belmont School Committee is an elected body charged under state law with hiring the superintendent. The SSC was an appointed advisory body. Just like the Warrant Committee chaired by Lubien is appointed to make recommendations about the budget that Town Meeting is free to adopt or set aside, the SSC was appointed to advise the School Committee about candidates for the superintendent position, and the School Committee is free to adopt or set aside those recommendations. In this case, the School Committee adopted all of the SSC’s recommended finalists as well as the semi-finalists that the SSC selected from a large applicant pool.

All of us on the Belmont School Committee are volunteers who care deeply about doing what is best for Belmont students. We are fortunate and thankful to have dedicated community members, including Lubien, who volunteered to help us with selecting the next person to lead our school district so our students have the best possible future. We are also thankful to the three excellent finalists who took time to visit Belmont last week and we feel confident in our ability to make the decision that is right for all of our students and the Belmont community.  

Meghan Moriarty, Chair

Belmont School Committee

Opinion: The Superintendent Search – A Flawed Process Indeed

Photo:The Belmont School Administration building where the district superintendent is located

By Geoffrey Lubien

As a committee member of the Belmont Superintendent Screening Committee (BSSC) and a parent of a Belmont Public Schools student, I would like to voice my significant concerns about the process of screening for up to three viable candidates for consideration by the School Committee. 

As the representative of the Warrant Committee to the BSSC, I was one of a 22-member committee which included three Belmont School Committee members and an outside consulting group with all members invited and appointed by the School Committee. With the BSSC having competed its charge and the finalists for superintendent having participated in a public process, I believe it is time to share these concerns.

As part of the process a charter, set of rules and desired competencies were agreed upon by the committee to guide us in vetting potential candidates. The timeline for this process was admittedly aggressive with the School Committee requirement to have it completed within six weeks, which, according to the consulting group, normally takes 12 to 16 weeks. Therefore, committee members were asked to accommodate tight timelines with numerous three-plus hour meetings. It was explained by the School Committee members that this aggressive timeline was due to the competitive market for Superintendents and the seasonal hiring cycle. It was also communicated to some that there was a desire for all the current School Committee members, two of whom have chosen not to run again, to have a vote in choosing the next superintendent. 

The process was kicked off on Jan. 23 and after several meetings it became evident that this was a significant task and that committee members would need to really need to dig in to determine up to three candidates by mid-March.  

Committee rules included that candidates required two-thirds vote by the full committee to advance to the School Committee for consideration. After a candidate pool was narrowed down to five, we conducted three-hour Zoom interviews with each participant, with the consulting group conducting the interviews and committee members observing. The full committee reconvened on March 6 to discuss and vote upon up to three of the five candidates to push forward to the School Committee. Through much discussion and deliberation, the committee recommended two candidates to promote to the next phase; hence, the committee met its charge. 

Less than 48 hours after the final meeting of the BSSC, the School Committee sent an email informing the committee members that the School Committee had decided to interview all four of the candidates. This egregious decision disregards the hours of work, set rules and charter, and the vote of the screening committee, all of whom were appointed by the School Committee. The School Committee unilaterally decided to advance two additional candidates that were not recommended by two-thirds vote of the BSSC including one candidate who did not receive any affirmative votes from the screening committee.  

The fact that the BSSC members were dismissed after working collaboratively and in the best interest of the Belmont Public School system is beyond reproach. Twenty two committee members worked within a very aggressive timeline for the superintendent search forgoing family and work obligations only to be completely disregarded in the end. Two of the candidates the committee did not vote to move forward were considered unviable candidates by the screening committee and should not have been pushed forward. 

The actions taken by the School Committee are extremely disrespectful of the number of hours dedicated to the process and the final decisions of the screening committee. Violating the agreed upon process in the end hurts the credibility and transparency of the selection of the next superintendent, a role critical to the Belmont School District’s and Town’s future. 

What is needed now is the School Committee to stop this current flawed process and appoint an interim superintendent to carry the schools through, form a new search committee with public invitations to serve and allow the appropriate time to garner and assess the greatest pool of qualified candidates. And when a decision is reached by said committee, the School Committee should follow suit and do what is best for the future of Belmont Public Schools.

Geoffrey Lubien is a Belmont Public School parent, a BSSC member, the Warrant Committee Chair, and Town Meeting Member, Precinct 7

Belmont Schools Announce Three Finalist For Superintendent’s Post; Interviews, Public Forums March 14, 15

Photo: The finalists for the Belmont school superintendent (from left) Dr. James ‘Kimo’ Carter, Dr. Jill Geiser and Dr. Carlee Simon

After an accelerated search process, the Belmont School District announced the three finalists as the next Schools Superintendent on Friday, March 10.

The candidates are:

  • Dr. James ‘Kimo’ Carter, Assistant Superintendent, Weston Public Schools
  • Dr. Jill Geiser, Assistant Superintendent, Billerica Public Schools
  • Dr. Carlee Simon, former Superintendent of Schools in Alachua County, FL

A 22-member search committee of residents selected the candidates, parents, school committee members, administrators, union officials, and teachers.

Carter joined the Weston Public Schools on July 2018 as the new assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning. Before his move to Weston, Kimo was the principal of Watertown Middle School from 2005. In addition, he was the assistant Principal of Hawthorne Brook Middle School in Townsend and a social studies teacher in Billerica. 

Carter enrolled at Wesleyan University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree. In addition, he holds a Master of Arts in Teaching Degree in History and Education from Boston College, a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership from Harvard University, and an Ed.D in Educational Administration from Boston College.

Joining the Billerica schools in 2017, Geiser was the principal of the Pre K-8 Healey School in Somerville from 2012. She also served as a middle school principal and high school assistant principal in the Lawrence schools. In addition, she is an adjunct professor at Boston College, taught in Arizona and New York City, was a Foreign Language Instructor in Thailand and was a Peace Corps volunteer for two years in Nepal.

Geiser holds a doctor of education degree from Boston College and graduate degrees from the Teachers College at Columbia University and UMASS Boston. In addition, she enrolled at the University of Delaware where she earned a Bachelor of Arts.

Simon currently runs the non-profit Families Deserve Inclusive Schools. She was the Superintendent of the school board of Alachua County in Florida from Dec. 2020 to March 2022.

She was an Adjunct Faculty Member at the University of North Florida from July 2019 – Dec. 2020 and the National Education Finance Academy Executive Director for three years.

For eighty years, from 2010 to 2018, Simon was an Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Educational Leadership at the University of Cincinnati. She also was the Subject Matter Expert at the Florida Virtual School from 2007 to 2011. Simon also taught math in a high school setting in two schools in Florida.

Simon enrolled at the University of Florida, earning her Bachelor of Design in Architectural Design in 2000. She received a Master of Education in 2007, a Ph.D. in Education Administration and Policy in 2010, and is expecting a Doctor of Philosophy in Design, Construction, and Urban Planning (Educational Facilities) in 2023, all from the University of Florida.

Dates of interviews and public forums

The following dates have been scheduled for the superintendent finalist candidates for their interviews and public forums: March 14 and 15

Candidates will spend a whole day in the district touring the schools and meeting with administrators and staff. The public is invited to attend the School Committee interviews and the public forums to meet the candidates at the Chenery Middle School auditorium. These meetings will be recorded but not live-streamed. Once all candidate interviews and public forums have been completed, the recordings will be made available along with a survey link for feedback on each candidate from the public at Belmont Public Schools Superintendent Search.

March 14

3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.: School Committee Interview with Dr. Jill Geiser
4:45 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.: School Committee Interview with Dr. Carlee Simon
6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.: Public Forum with Dr. Jill Geiser
6:40 p.m. to 7:10 p.m.: Public Forum with Dr. Carlee Simon

March 15

4 p.m. to 5 p.m.: Interview with Dr. Kimo Carter
6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.: Public Forum with Dr. Kimo Carter

All events will take place in the Chenery Auditorium

Thanks, Maura: Belmont To Net $1.5M Increase In Local Aid For FY ’24 Via Gov. Healey’s Budget

Photo: Flush with cash, the new governor is increasing unrestricted local aid to communities

It couldn’t have come at a better time.

When newly-elected Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey filed her $55.5 billion Fiscal Year 2024 budget recommendation on March 1, it was anticipated that Bay State communities would be a beneficiary of the state’s ballooning coffer. And Belmont was not disappointed with what came down from Beacon Hill.

“Yes, it’s very good news,” said Belmont Town Administrator Patrice Garvin who presented the preliminary Chapter 70 local aid numbers for fiscal year ’24 in Healey’s proposed budget to the Select Board at its meeting on Monday, March 6.

“Looking at unrestricted general aid … the town’s receiving an additional $1.6 million over what the town received in fiscal year ’23,” said Garvin. Subtract the adjusted assessments – for instance, to the MBTA and Special Education – state aid nets out at $1.491 million for Belmont.

Garvin said her office has already commenced working with the school district, town departments and chairs of boards to “figure out how this is going to impact the amount of free cash we use in the FY ’24 budget.” That process will be discussed at the Select Board’s joint meeting with the Warrant Committee on March 20.

This new infusion of revenue from the state comes as Belmont and its schools are facing difficult fiscal choices in the coming months. In the latest version of the town’s FY 2024 operating budget presented at Budget Summit 5 in February, the school district was facing approximately $2.1 million in cuts – which would result in cutting 28 FTEs – from its proposed ’24 budget while town departments would see the fourth year of no growth in spending.

While much of the focus for the new revenue is squarely on needs in fiscal ’24, Select Board Chair Mark Paolillo noted the school district is undergoing a historic rise in Special Education related out-of-district placement expenditures, resulting in the district’s FY ’23 budget projections falling from a $140,000 surplus to a $890,000 deficit.

“The ’24 budget has to be recast” based on the exploding special education costs, said Paolillo.

Looking further afield, Galvin said the town will need to determine how the $1.5 million will impact the fiscal ’25 budget. “We’re going to have to be careful. We’re not going to project our state aid increasing in fiscal ’25 by 13 percent,” said Galvin.

But all in all, the jump in aid is being warmly greeted by Belmont officials.

“This is a good news story, so far,” said Paolillo.

“More is better than less,” said board member Adam Dash.