Clarksburg School Hopes Town Will Help Ease Budget Cuts

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Superintendent Jonathan Lev points out some of the budget issues to School Committee members Jeffrey Levanos and David Woods on Monday hight.
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The School Committee may have to cut up to $32,000 from next year's budget, depending on how much money the town is willing to let it keep from this year.

The committee had been asked to cut $16,000 from its $2,414,000 budget after the Finance Committee found the town was still $20,000 over its levy capacity two weeks ago. Town officials had been preparing for cuts up $52,000 until the House Ways and Means Committee budget added another $31,000 to its cherry sheets.

"Since then, our budget has risen to $2,430,280, so there is an increase of about $16,000," said Superintendent Jonathan Lev, because of a residential placement. "With this residential placement, it's really $32,000 we'd have to cut."

The student had been attending an outside treatment facility at a cost of $40,000 and $7,000 in transportation; the residential placement doubles the cost to $80,000.

However, Lev said Selectmen Chairman Carl McKinney had indicated he would recommend the school be allowed to keep any monies left over from this year's budget. Normally, those unexpended funds are returned to town coffers.

The superintendent estimated that could come to about $15,000; McKinney also had held out hope that the town would approve kicking in $5,000 in free cash from this year's budget, if the Finance Committee also agreed.

"The big variable is town meeting," said School Committee member Jeffrey Levanos. "Historically, they've always been with us."

Lev, however, cautioned that the town election would occur before town meeting and that could change the outcome.

Other potential cuts include:

• Cutting the paraprofessional hours
• Reducing or eliminating the Spanish teacher
• Eliminating a kitchen aide position
• Cutting music (now two days a week) or art (1 1/2 days a week)
"What scares me is do we vote on a budget that's say, $15,000 less than what we really need, and hoping on that money being returned?" asked Lev, since it would require a town vote to keep the funds.

Even if that scenario played out, the school would still have to cut about $12,000. Some $7,000 could come from the no-longer-needed transportation funds, the rest from the possible retirement of a paraprofessional.

A number of employees will get pink slips, as required by law, on Tuesday to give the school options on where cuts can occur. Lev said decisions will have to be made by July 1 or those employees will be eligible for unemployment.

School Committee members Levanos and David Woods both were against the idea of cutting Spanish or music and arts. They agreed to wait until the Finance Committee and Selectmen meet on Wednesday night to discuss the situation with them.

"They're not always good options but we do have some options," said Woods.

Lev said the budget is "bare bones" considering insurance, fuel and wages have increased. The school has also run out of stimulus funding and will be down at least two school-choice students over last year, although there is a possibility that more can be enrolled.

"We've lost money," said Lev. "Increasing our budget over $45,000 is really a cut."

Tags: school budget,   

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