Adams-Cheshire Pondering Cuts to Close Budget Gap

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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The Adams-Cheshire Regional School Committee is facing a $400,000 budget gap for 2015.

ADAMS, Mass. — The Adams-Cheshire Regional School Committee is struggling to deal with a "very scary" budget with a million-dollar increase for 2015.

The proposed 2015 fiscal budget is $19,087,073, up about 6 percent over last year, or $1,149,932.

"Everything in this budget has been trimmed down to the bare minimum," David Hinkell, director of business and finance, said. "There is nothing in here excessive, there is no contingency whatsoever, and it is a very scary budget."

After deliberation with both Cheshire and Adams officials, there is $403,000 gap between what the school district needs and what the towns can provide.

"We certainly understand the balance between advocating for educating students and the burden on the taxpayers, so that’s why we are left with this gap," Superintendent Kristen Gordon said. "We need to figure out if we should go for it and try to cut it out, and I think that is what we are presenting to the committee tonight."

The district asked Adams officials for $488,000; the town is able to provide only $179,000.

Cheshire can also provide the schools with only $88,000 of the asked amount of $183,000.

"So this is where we are right now with this budget," Hinkell said. "We have met with both towns and we have a pretty good idea of what they are willing to provide the school within their levy capacity."

The foundation budget for the upcoming fiscal year will be $17,232,120. This is an increase of $580,340.

The capital budget will increase $558,292, which brings it to a total of $1,032,590. Much of this cost comes from capital repairs to Cheshire Elementary School and C.T. Plunkett Elementary School.

"These are things that absolutely have to be done in these schools, and they are major repairs," Hinkell said.

Transportation costs have also increased by 1.5 percent, which comes to an $11,301 total increase. Possible options to bring this price down are sharing a Savoy bus.

The committee members discussed not busing students who live one to one-half miles from the schools or charging a transportation fee, but they believe these to be bad ideas.

One possible cut proposed was to reduce the health insurance costs by lowering contribution rates and having employees pick up more of the split.

Although school officials are against cutting staff, they also see it as a viable option. The district already has a lack of positions that many other districts have such as a full-time physiologist and a school adjustment counselor.

"We can’t add anything to the budget and one of our main goals is to not cut staff," Gordon said.

Another possibility is eliminating a 2 percent staff wage increase or to defer teacher wage increases to fiscal 2016, or eliminate major repair projects or additional use of the district's excess and deficiency account.

"It becomes very frustrating because as administrators we know how we want to move the district forward," Gordon said. "We know what we need to put in place to move the district forward, but this year, again, we are stuck with this deficit that has us cutting money instead of adding money."

Tags: ACRSD,   fiscal 2015,   school budget,   

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