Adams-Cheshire School Committee Approves 2020 Budget
CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Adams-Cheshire Regional School Committee voted Monday to certify a fiscal 2020 budget of $20,099,487 that represents a 1.77 percent increase.
There wasn't much to discuss Monday at Hoosac Valley High School and the already well-vetted budget with minimal increases easily received a passing vote from the committee.
"The School Committee has a clear vision and is providing direction to providing a budget that will help improve academic education for all students," Chairman Paul Butler said. "The fiscal year 2020 budget provides for the needs of all our students. It also recognizes and is sensitive to the fiscal constraints if our towns and taxpayers."
There are no real additions to the budget and the increase was mostly driven by fixed costs, contractual increases, and the shifting of some funds used to employ teachers from school choice to the operations budget.
The district retains positions added from prior years and by shuffling and optimizing some funds have included two new positions -- a reading interventionist and learning lab teacher.
The budget breaks down into three parts: capital that has decreased 4.4 percent, transportation that has increased by 2.3 percent, and foundation that has increased by 2.1 percent.
The foundation budget of $18,237,635 is built from state aid and contributions from both Adams and Cheshire.
Adams' total foundation assessment is $4,698,097 or a 6.027 percent increase. Cheshire's total foundation assessment is $2,477,696 or a 3.828 percent increase.
The majority of the assessments are calculated by the state and the district tacks on a smaller amount based on enrolment.
The assessments also include apportioned amounts from the capital and transportation budgets and Adams' total assessment will be $5,140,669 which is a 3.498 percent increase and Cheshire will be assessed $2,616,626 which is a 2.045 percent increase.
These amounts do not include project debt that is outside of the levy limit.
The budget passed with three separate votes and the only member to vote in the negative was Peter Tatro.
Tatro's main concern was the district was not adding funds to Project Lead The Way as he felt the School Committee promised in the past.
"Our big sell when we closed the [Cheshire] School was adding the staffing and new positions but also programming," he said. "This is something we have invested in heavily in the past couple of years and the budget is never going to get easier."
Superintendent John Vosburgh said the district is taking a step back to see what courses students sign up for within the three pathways the district will implement. He added they also have to see what classes teachers are willing to teach.
He said this does not mean more Project Lead The Way courses will not be added in future budgets but he wants data to reflect any investment they make.
"I don't want to say that we are going away from the plan I just want to take a slight step back to see exactly where Project Lead The Way fits into play in the entire picture," he said.
Tatro said he did not want to imply that the district had to focus on STEM programming or Project Lead The Way specifically but felt the district needs to consistently allocate funds for focused curriculum expansion.
Tatro suggested that they pull $20,000 from excess and deficiency to go towards expanding programming when they figure out where they want to expand.
Business Manager Erika Snyder said the committee cannot just increase the budget mid-year without and added that she was not comfortable pulling more funds from excess and deficiency.
"We are already using more than I originally anticipated to lower the town's assessments," she said. "I think I would like one more years to see where our future balance ends just to make sure we are on the upward trend."
Snyder added that she would prefer not to add programming without data backing it up and noted that she felt the district took a somewhat rushed approach with Project Lead The Way.
Vosburgh agreed and added that he rather wait a year to see what programs gain traction or perhaps need more funding before investing into expanded programming.
"In my opinion, we are being smart in not throwing money into something that we may not have enough data to support," he said. "…I think we are taking an op to evaluate what we have from a teacher standpoint and an interest standpoint to get a better handle on what our students want to do and where they want to go after high school."
Tatro also thought there should be a line item added to the budget to help advertise and showcase the district.
"I think it is something we have talked about and something that will help us out as a district that can change the perception and show the great things that we are doing here," he said.
Snyder said there may not be a specific line item but there is money that could be used for this purpose built into the budget.
Butler added that it may not be about having a line item for advertisement but a plan and possibly a subcommittee set up to take the project.
Both towns have also seen the budget and to be fully ready for implementation, the budget must still pass both Adams and Cheshire town meetings.
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