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Lanesborough Appropriation To Greylock Drops

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
03:03PM / Wednesday, March 16, 2011
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Lanesborough is on pace to pay less in assessment to the high school than it did last year.

The administration has further cut Mount Greylock Regional High School's budget to the point where Lanesborough will pay $25,550, or 1 percent, less than last year.

"Williamstown and Lanesborough both requested a level-funded budget for this year and by level funded, they mean dollars," Jennifer Coscia, the district's finance director, said on Tuesday. "In Williamstown's case, last year they gave us $4,600,521 and that is what they have requested again this year. When we do that, because Lanesborough's enrollment is down just under 1 percent versus prior years, their assessment actually goes down."

The budget was reworked since the School Committee's last meeting in February at which Coscia presented a budget that called for a .8 percent increase for Williamstown and a .6 percent increase for Lanesborough. However, that was before the town was told about a significant increase in minimum contribution to McCann Technical School from Williamstown. Coscia said she met with Town Manager Peter Fohlin, who requested level-funding.

Heather Williams, who heads the finance subcommittee, said the committee voted to support the most recent $10.4 million budgets.

The budget includes paying $184,000 per year on the five-year bond taken out for the locker room and boiler repairs.

"The good news is that we're addressing our needs right now and resolving them," Coscia said. "By dealing with this issue now, we can get this off our backs and focus on the future."

School Committee member David Langston argued that the budget should been larger because the town had voted for that debt to be excluded from Proposition 2 1/2. The school should request level-funding appropriation from Williamstown excluding that debt, he said.

"Why did you guys support that? That sounds cock-eyed and stupid," Langston said. "In planning for next year, it seems to me to be jumping to conclusion and moving too rapidly to that conclusion to start with Williamstown flat or equivalent to last year's request that includes a substantial amount of money that is excluded from their levy."

Williams said she also raised the same question.

"Why is Williamstown limiting us given there is a debt exclusion that allows us to go over flat and still be flat for tax purposes? That is an issue I'd like to raise with the town of Williamstown and not the administration," Williams said.

However, increasing the appropriation to Williamstown will then increase the appropriation from Lanesborough, who did not pass debt exclusion. Lanesborough is already on the edge of Proposition 2 1/2 and additional request could put them over.

"They are really counting on a reduction," Coscia said. "The problem is that Lanesborough can not afford to increase their property taxes and they are currently over their limit. So, whatever Lanesborough decides that they are able to fund, Williamstown is going to take the proportionate amount and that's what they're going to be willing to pay."

The budget overall is down by $8,454 and has increases for professional development, employee benefits, textbooks and materials and technology. Yet, with state aid and grant funding down 11 percent — about $261,000 — the school needed to find $615,000.

The major cuts to overcome that deficit include in saving through shared administration in the district, cutting a custodial position and reducing transportation by one bus. Shared administration will save $100,000 and the school is expecting six additional tuition students that will bring in $89,000.

"We are confident that the proposed FY12 budget will provide the base for a promising future," Superintendent of Schools Rose Ellis said. "We truly believe this budget will grow out school."
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