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Adams Selectman John Duval and Town Adminstrator Tony Mazzucco said Adams can't fund more than a 3 percent assessment increase.

Adams-Cheshire Budget Scenarios Too Expensive For Towns

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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The Audit and Evaluation subcommittee weighs budget scenarios Monday night.

CHESHIRE, Mass. — Without overrides, the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District cannot keep both its elementary schools open or hire all of the recently recommended positions to make its schools better.

The Audit and Evaluation subcommittee went over budget scenarios Monday and found those that call for hiring positions advised by the Unversity of Massachusetts' Collins Center report are too expensive.

Adams Town Administrator Tony Mazzucco said that unless the town goes for a Proposition 2 1/2 override, the very most Adams can contribute is a 3 percent increase.

"I spent the last week cutting around $30,000 $220,000 from the town budget so we are pretty sure that 3 percent is the best we can probably do," he told the committee. "The board might want to throw an override on the ballot ... we could give it a shot and if the voters say 'no,' the voters say no."

Cheshire Selectwoman Carol Francesconi said her town is still early in the budget process but knows it has less than $200,000 in levy capacity. She added that normally Cheshire follows Adams but always funds what the School Committee asks.

"We have never set a percentage for the school budget we have always met the school budget," she said. "So I am not quite sure we can give you a number ... but I don't know how long because there will come a time when we can't override anymore."

Mazzucco said the town is somewhat strapped as to how much it provide to education because of the increase of Adams students going to McCann Technical School.

"I know for us, McCann is killing us this year with an enormous increase and I know Cheshire's number is up quite a bit, too," Mazzucco said. "We are going up $200,000 for McCann this year and it really destroyed my budget and if you guys came in with a 21 percent increase, we wouldn't even look at it."

School Committee member Darlene Rodowicz asked if the town could vote down the McCann budget as it has done with Adams-Cheshire in the past.

Mazzucco said the town could but it would take a majority of the member towns to send McCann back to the drawing board. It would be unlikely for smaller communities that may see a small increase, if any at all, to vote down the budget.

Rodowicz reiterated that McCann spends more than $19,000 per student while Adams-Cheshire is around $12,000. She added that some McCann staff with similar titles as Adams-Cheshire make 1.5 times more money.

Mazzucco said nearly 144 Adams students attend McCann and it is costing the town $1 million next year.

Superintendent Robert Putnam said if the district uses the 3 percent Adams' increase, keeping all schools open is not an option and even if a school closes, the towns can still not afford the five interventionist positions the Collins Center recommended to dig the district out of its Level 3 ranking.

"Year two, we are looking at assessments of the two communities that either community can afford," he said. "We are going to have to tweak all of these options to get it to a reasonable percent and that will then filter through into the next year."

Putnam said he could cut further into the budget to find the $320,000 needed to fund the interventionist positions. He said this would mean larger class sizes at the lower-class levels and even less explorative classes.

He described this as being between a rock and a hard place because by cutting further into the budget to gain positions that will increase the leveling of the school, the district will become less attractive to students.

"We have been cutting so much that we no longer have the opportunities to entice children to come here," Putnam said. "All I can do is cut electives, which will not make us an attractive place to come."

Adams Selectman John Duval suggested providing new scenarios for Thursday night's School Committee meeting that adds in some of the positions instead of all of them at once. Also, he asked that Putnam show what an override would look like.

Putnam said if he were to knock the budget down to a 3 percent increase for Adams, he would have to cut nearly $120,000. This means the district could only hire two to three of the new positions.

Chairman Paul Butler said the communities may be more willing to go for an override that will improve the district instead of just keeping the budget balanced.

The committee then went over lingering capital projects at both C.T. Plunkett and Cheshire Elementary schools.

Mazzucco said the district can remove the Plunkett boiler-room roof project from its costs because the town will repair it no matter if the school closes.

Putnam said his most recent figure for the project is more than $150,000.

Mazzucco said the town also plans to conduct small-scale repair projects at Plunkett each year, including the cafeteria floor and the handicapped lift if the school stays open. He also suggested that the gym stairs can be repaired cheaper than the $12,000 floated.

Cheshire has a handicapped lift that needs to be replaced for $68,000 as well as an electrical panel upgrade for $10,000.

Business Manager Erika Snyder added that the transportation reimbursement may not be as lucrative as first imagined. It was estimated that closing Plunkett would mean $116,000 more year and closing Cheshire, $19,000 for a $97,000 difference between the two.

But after taking into account reimbursement gained by moving Plunkett kids up to Hoosac Valley High School, the difference is closer to $62,000.

The School Committee will vote to close a school Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. at Hoosac Valley.

Updated on March 9, 2017, with correct budget cut figure from Adams. The wrong amount was posted because of a transcription error.

Tags: ACRSD_budget,   fiscal 2018,   school closures,   

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