A number of people turned out in Dover on Wednesday night to support educators and ask city councilors to pass a default school budget, which is millions of dollars over the tax cap.

A tax cap compliant budget would cost taxpayers $67.9 million. The default budget the school board passed is $73 million.

School district officials supported using the default budget so they could negotiate with the teachers' union to find cost reductions. When the budget cycle started, the jobs of one-tenth of employees in the district were on the line.

That included 40 teaching positions, 13 paraeducators, three clerical workers and five nonunion employees.

There are still teaching and paraprofessional jobs school district officials hope to cut in order to reach a more tax cap compliant budget.

Nearly 20 people spoke during a public hearing at City Hall on Wednesday.

Some said Dover taxpayers provide less money for education than other cities and towns. They would like to see education prioritized, they said.

Resident Susan Golder talked about having pride in the city's vibrant downtown and small neighborhood communities.

Golder said during this unprecedented year, educators have "worked like dogs" to ensure students have had a positive learning experience.

"What I'm fearful about this evening is that if we don't look very carefully, and revisit the fiscal allotments for our kids' educations, that progress and pride may be thwarted by the deficiencies in the schools," Golder said.

School Board Chair Amanda Russell told the council she is tired of battling for funding for education.

"The fact of the matter is, the budget the board presented is what it would take to sustain what we are doing this year into next year," Russell said. "It's not a palatable budget, I understand that, but it is actually what it costs."

Not everyone in attendance of the meeting was in favor of a school district budget that exceeds the tax cap.

Resident Joseph Merullo said the tax cap should be respected.

"This is especially true now as so many homeowners and businesses are trying to recover from the effects of a global pandemic," Merullo said.

City councilors will vote on the city's overall budget June 2.

If the budget exceeds the tax cap in Dover, it can still be approved by the city council.

For passage, that requires a two-thirds vote.

The Dover School District has approximately 4,200 students and 600 employees.

Contact Managing News Editor Kimberley Haas at Kimberley.Haas@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @KimberleyHaas.

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