WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The town's assessment for McCann Technical School is dropping by about $65,000.
The Finance Committee reviewed on Thursday the school's $8.1 million budget that has increased by 1.74 percent overall. Williamstown's portion of that will drop because there will be five fewer students attending this year than last.
The assessments to the seven towns in the Northern Berkshire Vocational Regional School District are determined by a state formula.
The base assessment is $251,018, which is down from $314,730. With the additional transportation and capital expenses that member towns split, a total of about $300,000 will be going to the school. Last year's total payment was about $365,000.
"The budget itself is pretty level funded," McCann School Committee Chairman Daniel Maloney told the Finance Committee. "We've got some extra money and what we're going to try to do is some of the bigger projects."
The mild winter this year has kept utility costs down and the joint health-care purchasing group, Berkshire Health Group, has negotiated a one-month premium holiday for next year that is giving the school room in the budget to begin tackling capital improvements, such as renovating the parking lot, as part of the operating budget, Maloney said.
• McCann Budget: $8.1 Million
• Williamstown Share: $300,000
• Williamstown Students: 18
The budget adds an additional English teacher that was cut a few years earlier. That added to regular step increases of about 1 percent and teachers attaining higher-education levels grow the salary line item by about $270,000. However, that is countered by the nearly $220,000 saved in employee benefits and $20,000 saved in insurance.
The school is also expecting to take a hit in transportation as it renegotiates the busing contract. The contract is currently out to bid but officials are expecting those costs to increase by $20,000.
While the decrease in cost is a good for the taxpayers, the decrease in Williamstown enrollment creates a greater inequity between member towns, Finance Committee members said. Committee member Andy Hogeland questioned if the town should reconsider being part of the district because the net spending Williamstown is paying per students this year is equal to the cost of tuitioning the students.
Historically, McCann has assessed member towns the minimum set by the state and that is not changing this year. However, that state formula also considers the town's wealth. The capital and transportation agreements also put more of a burden on Williamstown than others.
Williamstown has 18 students going to McCann next year, which is about 3 percent of the population, but are paying about a third of the capital costs.
The cost figures change each year and the capital and transportation figures could be offset if Lanesborough and Cheshire join the district because nine towns would then share those burdens. Additionally, if the number of Williamstown students increases, being in the district would be a savings.
Finance Committee member Paula Consolini, who is also involved with Mount Greylock Regional High School, said more students may end up going to McCann in upcoming years. She said Mount Greylock officials are working on improving their recognition of student needs and that could include seeing if McCann is a better fit. If so, being in the district and having the bus transportation will help those students. She added that Mount Greylock is not likely to increase vocational education.
McCann officials said they are hoping to improve their numbers from Williamstown.
"I've always been concerned about the lack of Williamstown students going to McCann," Williamstown representative to the School Committee James Gazzaniga said. "It's always distressing to me to see these numbers."
The Finance Committee members voiced favor of the school's programming but were dismayed by the disparity between the costs to the towns.
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