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North Adams School Committee Approves FY2019 Budget
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
01:01AM / Tuesday, June 12, 2018
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The School Committee on Monday approved a $17.7 million budget for fiscal 2019 that is up just under 2 percent from this year.
The City Council is expected to approve the school budget Tuesday night as part of the city's overall spending plan for fiscal 2019. 
Superintendent Barbara Malkas said the spending plan represents a "level service budget." The School Committee was also recommended to use $250,000 out of school choice funds to offset the budget. 
The committee had been scheduled to approve the budget on May 29 in time for it to be presented to the Finance Committee but Vice Chairwoman Heather Boulger questioned a conflict of interest because her husband works in the school district. 
Her fellow committee members Ian Bergeron and James Holmes noted that they, too, could be in conflict because of family members working in the district.
The vote was postponed and a second special hearing held on Monday night; the superintendent presented the budget to the Finance Committee. 
School officials sought an advisory from the state Ethics Commission, which spelled out a recommended process for approving the budget by having those affected abstain from discussing and voting line items that related to their family members. Once those items are voted on, the entire committee was able to vote on the bottom line budget. 
The voting on Monday took four parts. First the line item for Drury High classroom teachers was voted separately, with Bergeron and Boulger abstaining; and then line item from Brayton classroom teachers, from which Holmes abstained. 
The full committee then approved the budget's bottom line and the transfer of $250,000 from school choice.
Mayor Thomas Bernard thanked Boulger for pointing out the conflict at the last meeting and for committee members to make it possible to hold a second hearing. 
The spending plan is designed to maintain services and programs. The priority has been the instructional core and reallocating existing resources to address program implementation and budget liabilities. 
The two highest spending areas are classroom instruction and specialists teachers. No jobs are being in eliminated although there are some "consolidations of resources" in shifting services where needed. Salaries are up about a half-million while the overall budget is up $342,000.
The largest cut is in professional development, down more than $100,000, or two-thirds, which will be made up by aggressively pursuing grant opportunities. 
A smaller reduction will be seen in leasing costs as the School Department plans to move into the second floor of City Hall by next April. That, however, will require upfront costs to bring the space up to state requirements for school safety protocols.
The estimated cost is $100,000 for capital improvements to reconfigure the space for 27 staff members; work has already begun in some of the offices. The anticipated plan is to share resources 50/50 with the city on utilities. The long term savings are estimated at $75,000 a year, which is about what Central Office is paying to lease the space on the second floor of the Berkshire Plaza.


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