|North Adams School Committee OKs $20M Level-Service Budget for FY24|
|By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff |
09:58AM / Wednesday, May 24, 2023
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The School Committee on Tuesday approved a $20 million budget for fiscal 2024.
The spending plan is level-serviced and level-funded in terms of the city's contribution.
"We have received an acknowledgement with Student Opportunity Act funds through Chapter 70 state aid which is allowing us to maintain a level-service budget, an overall budget for FY24," said Superintendent Barbara Malkas. "The bottom line with respect to that budget remains the same."
The total increase of $1,296,564 over this year, or 8.69 percent, is exactly how much more the district is receiving in Chapter 70 state education aid. That aid totals $16,216,082.
The city's share will be maintained from this year at $3,838,270.
Some of the increase is due to the shifting of positions into the operating budget that had been covered by federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding.
School districts have been strategizing for the coming "fiscal cliff" when federal and state funding related to pandemic recovery disappears in fiscal 2025.
Malkas said there was a change in one of the line items that does not affect the bottom line. Some $60,000 was set aside for an evaluation and audit of the school system's special education program but the bid came in at $92,000.
Instead, funding in the federal special education 240 is being rolled over into the next year to cover the total cost.
"It is a very comprehensive audit," said Malkas, adding that she and Director of Student Support Services Thomas Simon "felt that the scope of that proposal is, in fact, the information we need as we go into future budget cycles."
Meanwhile, a review of current and future special education caseloads has halted plans to combine some positions. The $60,000 line item will now allow for the reinstatement of a special education coordinator position at Colegrove Park Elementary School.
A public hearing on the budget was held immediately prior to the School Committee meeting at Brayton Elementary School and online. No one from the public attended or spoke during the hearing or the meeting.
Committee member Tara Jacobs said she was inclined to vote no to express her concerns that the district was level funding the city's contribution while at the same time it was taking another $1.2 million to maintain services.
"I very much appreciate the hard work that goes into giving us a level service budget and the resource allocation, you know, almost magically happens in this district," she said. "But I'd love to see us grow as well."
Mayor Jennifer Macksey, chair of the committee, said she appreciated the comments but noted that the city covers a lot of costs related to school employees and buildings that the committee doesn't see.
"I think maybe an educational piece when we do some of our reporting to show what the city contributes outside, that might be helpful," she said.
Vice Chair Richard Alcombright, also former mayor, said anything moved over to the school side would inevitably affect municipal departments and programs.
"I think we disproportionately, in a sense, compared to other communities, fund through the municipal venue more so than many other communities in the commonwealth, as a percentage of the budget," he said. "I think it's a very delicate balancing act and I think the city needs to be commended for how much it does put in towards, above and beyond the state's contribution."
The committee pulled out and approved separately several line items related to transportation and wages with School Committee member David Sookey abstaining because of a conflict of interest. His wife works for the system and he is an employee of Dufour, the schools' transportation vendor. Macksey read out the process for this voting into the record.
After that, the total budget passed unanimously.