CHESHIRE, Mass. — Officials in Adams and Cheshire aren't raising red flags so far with the proposed budget for Adams-Cheshire Regional School District, a distinct change from the past few years of contentious budget cutting.
"This is one of the clearest budgets I have seen in many, many years," said Adams Finance Committee member Jeff Lefebvre said on Wednesday. "It has been really good."
Members from the school, finance and select boards for both towns held a joint meeting on Wednesday at Hoosac Valley High School to review a preliminary fiscal 2019 budget that is up 1.46 percent overall.
The draft budget of $19,557,372 is essentially level funded, with an increase by $37,751 of this year.
"I think a lot of progress has been made over the past several months," said Bernie Lynch, of Community Paradigm Inc., who has been facilitating meetings between the two towns to improve communication. "Tonight, we will look at the topic that brings everybody together -- the regional school district -- and I thought this would be an appropriate time to look at the budget."
Adams' share of the budget will be $5,666,695, or a 1.305 percent increase over this year, and Cheshire will be assessed $2,811,124, a 3.340 percent increase.
Superintendent of Schools Robert Putnam said the district did not have to cut critical positions that were added last year and he plans to hire a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) high school teacher to expand programming.
"We can have more class offerings at the high school and students will spend less time in study halls," Putnam said.
He added that STEM and coding programming, as well as the Bay State Reading Initiative, will be maintained and expanded in this budget.
One program the school district wants to add is a yearlong course that would start with forestry management and then harvest lumber to be used in a timber frame class.
A school psychologist, something the district hasn’t had in years, will also be hired. Putnam said these services have been contracted out in the past and the district has depended on part-time psychologist.
"As good as they are it is piecemeal and having someone that is here all of the time who knows all of the kids ... would be valuable," Putnam said. "There are profound needs and it would be to have someone who understands these needs."
He said a full-time psychologist can also fill in as a social worker and guidance counselor.
Business Manager Erika Snyder said the foundation budget has increased 1.3 percent to $17,673,956 and the transportation budget has increased 2.8 percent to $922,329.
She said the capital budget has increased 4.1 percent to $961,087 to fund continuing debt and a possible roof repair at the high school.
Putnam said there are leaks in the roof and money is needed just in case the leaks are not covered under the warranty. The district wants to put $40,000 aside just in case.
Snyder added that with no increase from Berkshire Health Group and some additional state aid for transportation because of the consolidation and closing of Cheshire Elementary School, there is a little more wiggle room in the budget compared to much tighter years in the past.
The town leaders had few questions in regards to the budget and did not raise any deal breakers.
The budget is far from set in stone and Snyder said numbers could change by the time the school committee votes.
Before closing, Lynch recommended that this group meet more often throughout the year, possibly quarterly, just to keep an ongoing dialogue that not only could inform decisions made in the school but possibly shared services between the towns.
Adams Selectman Chairman John Duval agreed.
"This meeting should happen every year ... here we have an opportunity to all get on the same page," he said. "This is good to do especially right before the budget session."
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