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The Finance Committee revisited the fiscal 2015 school budget, which has a $300,000 deficit.

Adams Finance Committee Backs School Budget Cuts

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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Chairman Timothy Burdick cautioned his fellow committee members to consider the consequences of failing to recommend the school budget.

ADAMS, Mass. — The Finance Committee revisited the Adams Cheshire Regional School District budget on Thursday night while reviewing the warrant articles for this year's town meeting.

Although approving Article 8, committee members shared confusion in voting philosophy over which way their vote should go toward the controversial budget that school officials say is economically responsible, but not educationally.

The total district budget is $18,604,786. The committee recommended the $4,601,300 assessment to Adams, which is a 2.8 percent increase over this year's budget. This still leaves the school district with a $300,000 hole to fill that will most likely come from staff cuts.

Many of the committee members were not present at the meeting; the committee only approved the budget with an 8-5 vote last time and there were fears that it would decline to recommend it to town meeting members.

Chairman Timothy Burdick urged the panel to stick with its original decision and vote to approve the budget as placed on the warrant article.

"I look at board etiquette," Burdick said. "The board comes up with a decision, whether you were a part of the winning side or losing side, you should support what the board came up with."

Paul Demastrie took the other side, feeling committee members should stick to their guns.

"When we voted for the original budget, several people voted against it for whatever reason, and I am saying you should consider that vote now when you recommend this for town meeting," Demastrie said. "You should vote the same way or else you are contradicting yourself."

The article was recommended with only vote against.

If the town meeting on June 19 disapproved the school budget at town meeting, it will have to be redone, said Burdick, leaving little time for a new budget to be constructed. With a decision so close to the end of the fiscal year on June 30, the district runs the risk of being run by the state and forced to use last fiscal year's budget until an agreement is made.

The full warrant can be found here.

Town Administrator Jonathan Butler added that Cheshire has to be taken into account too, because it is part of the district. This could slow things down even more.

"If Adams jumps up $300,000, Cheshire has to jump up near $150,000 or else the agreement isn’t satisfied between the towns," Butler said.

Burdick said this scenario had happened before.

"I know something similar to this happened years ago," he said. "We were told if the budget didn't pass, the school district runs the risk of being frozen and operated through a level funding by the state, and the timing really isn't good for something like this."

Burdick said he suspects that someone will bring up the possibility of a Proposition 2 1/2 override at town meeting and attempt to change the budget. He urged that town meeting members understand the repercussions.

The committee was asked what would happen if an override situation took place. Butler said adding $300,000 would trigger an override vote since the excess levy limit is close to $40,000.

He reiterated that even if the override passed, the school district would have little time to change the budget and if the override failed, the town would not have to pay the $300,000 even though town meeting members may have voted for it.

Butler said the School Committee members are provided with the numbers that would trigger an override and it is up to them if they want to go for it. He added that if this is started earlier, there is time to push the idea on the town.

"I think that fight should start with the School Committee, and the School Committee should come out as a united front to the towns … and then we know what we are up against in March rather than in May," he said.

Both towns overwhelmingly voted in 2010 to exclude the Hoosac Valley High School renovation borrowing from Proposition 2 1/2 so the debt for the school project has no bearing on the levy limit capacity.

Tags: ACRSD,   Finance Committee,   fiscal 2015,   school budget,   town meeting 2015,   

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