|North Adams School Budget Includes Program, Staff Cuts|
|By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff|
10:53PM / Tuesday, June 05, 2012
|The School Committee on Tuesday night approved a school budget of $15.69 million, up $400,000 over last year.|
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city has struggled to close a school budget gap of $1.2 million for fiscal 2013.
Superintendent James Montepare said this was his most challenging school budget yet.
The School Committee on Tuesday night approved a proposed $15.69 million budget that is just 2.6 percent over this year but still less than the fiscal 2011 budget.
"We've done a fair amount of moving around in this budget, said Superintendent James Montepare at a public hearing at Conte Middle School prior to the vote. "It's been the most challenging for the district that I can recall even back as far as the implementatation of [Proposition] 2 1/2."
Montepare said the school district expects to be level funded at around $13,418,958, although final state budget has not yet been approved. To span the gap, some $400,000 will used from school-choice funds, and four teaching positions, two teaching assistants and two paraprofessional positions will be eliminated.
Four teachers are also retiring, which will bring some salary savings.
The district is also moving teacher salaries from Title 1 and some federal special education programs into the operating budget and replacing them with other staff. Federal grants require the school set aside an amount to match what teachers pay into retirement, 9 percent, to cover administrative costs.
Changing who's paid by the grants and other programs saved some $100,000.
Title 1 changes include being able access some funds, $150,000, earlier in the year. The school system will also provide more supplemental services in house and reduce the use of costlier online programs.
Eliminated will be the teacher working at the Juvenile Resource Center at the Second Street Jail in Pittsfield. Montepare said the use of the program for truancy and other issues for middle school students has nearly evaporated since the city changed to a K-7 model. Drury High School still uses the facility.
2013 $15.69 million
2012 $15.29 million
2011 $15.77 million
2010 $15.55 million
2009 $16.40 million
The Community Transition Program at Johnson School will also disappear in its current form, along with its staff. The Steeples program, operated by an outside vendor, will continue at Johnson.
"We are recrafting what that will look like," said Montepare, describing it as wiping the slate clean for the Community Transition Program. "There will still be a presence of alternative education. ... We are trying to do it smarter."
The Juvenile Resource and transition programs were targeted for elimination during last year's Proposition 2 1/2 presentations.
Also eliminated or reduced were special education field trips, automobile reimbursement for administrators, supplies and instructional materials by 20 percent (down 70 percent overall in five years) and "a laundry list of $100, $50, $600, getting us to where we are right now," said Montepare.
The school choice account has $875,000 in it; $400,000 will be used for next year (up from $360,000 this year) and another $400,000 for the year after. With an estimated $200,000 coming in annually, the fund will be nearly depleted by the 2014-15 school year.
"We've gone through budget and taken a look at anything we though we could live without but it's been a challenge," said Montepare.
Increases include salaries, up 4.55 percent overall (in part because higher salaries were removed from grant funding) plus the teachers' contract gives them 2 percent plus the 1 percent postponed from this year; busing and medical services, each up 2 percent; information management and technology up nearly 13 percent; the superintendent's office up 6 percent; and networking and telecommunications, up 25 percent.
"It's amazing that we're able to maintain the programs that we are with the financial challenges that we face here," said School Committee member John Hockridge.
Mayor Richard Alcombright noted that students were still excelling, including having the highest percentage in Advanced Placement this year and next. Still, he said, the city is only tens of thousands away from its minimum contribution and the use of reserves are unsustainable.
In other business:
• The mayor thanked graduating senior Max Quinn for his dedicated participation on both the School Committee and building committee.
• The committee accepted resignations and appointments. Montepare commended Jon Harvey for his many years of service as a maintenance custodian. Harvey retires on Aug. 1.
• Approved the summer school program and next year's school calendar.
North Adams School Budget Fiscal 2013