Budget Goes to North Adams City Council on Tuesday

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council will take up the fiscal 2013 budget on Tuesday night.

The Finance Committee on Thursday gave final recommendations to approve the city's $36.2 million spending plan after three meetings reviewing various aspects of the budget.

Last Wednesday, School Superintendent James Montepare reiterated his presentation from the evening before, when he had presented the $15.69 million school budget at a public hearing with the School Committee. The committee had unanimously approved the budget.

Committee members questioned some line items that were up. Montepare said those reflected, in large part, moving funding around. For example, a technology instructor was hired raising that line item, but the technology budget was cut to offset it.

"If there is anything up there is a movement," he said. "If there is anything down it's a movement or a cut."

Montepare did warn that the city is only $54,000 above its state-mandated minimum spending. Last year, the city had been within $300,000; in the past it had ranged from $1 million to $3 million.

"You can't cut for four years in a row a million, a million, a million," he said. "We've taken $6 million out of this budget over the past few years."

The Northern Berkshire Vocational School District budget is up 1.67 percent.

McCann Superintendent James Brosnan, also on Wednesday, said the city will see some savings if Lanesborough and Cheshire become part of the Northern Berkshire Vocational School District.

The budget is up in some place for equipment and maintenance. Brosnan said the machines used in the shops have to be replaced on a regular cycle as do components in the heating and ventilation. The school converted to gas in fiscal 2009 at a cost of $170,000 but has seen savings in fuel and repairs. The renovation of the school gym will be paid offin fiscal 2017.

Brosnan said the district has seen health-care savings through Berkshire Health Group and by moving retirees onto Medex. The premium split has remained the same at 75/25.

Committee members asked Brosnan what the greatest financial challenges were. He said it was staff and students - such as long-term disability, leaves of absence or extraordinary support - rather than building issues because the facility has been well taken care of.

The city's assessment of the $8.1 million budget is down almost 6 percent, from $890,353 this year to $835,622, largely because of a reduction in North Adams enrollment. More eighth-graders are opting to stay at Drury High School.

On Wednesday, Mayor Richard Alcombright said the $120,000 annual debt for the renovations at Drury High School will "roll off" this coming year and will go into reserves in anticipation of the Conte Middle School Project.

Overall, the city has about $1.8 million in reserves, the bulk of which is free cash ($737,000) and school choice ($875,000). Some $250,000 in free cash and another $150,000 from other reserves will be used to balance the fiscal 2013 budget and $400,000 in school choice funds will go toward the school budget.

Transfers from free cash will be used to balance any accounts this year and the mayor anticipates asking $300,000 to transferred from free cash into the stabilizition fund.

"We need either growth or we need more state money ... or we just need through this budget not to spend it all," said the mayor.

Also on Tuesday's agenda is a proposed ordinance that would give the Historic Commission review of any structures prior to demolition and the authority to delay demolition to investigate a preservation option.

Tags: city budget,   fiscal 2013,   school budget,   

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