Last week, the City Council had preliminarily approved the entire fiscal 2021 budget except for the $64.4 million school plan that they tossed back to the School Committee for another look. Councilors had expressed concern that the school budget was too tight.
Just like its partner in the Hoosac Valley Regional School District, Cheshire, and the school district itself, Adams will wait for definitive state aid numbers from Boston before approving a hard budget. The COVID-19 pandemic has spawned wide speculation of revenue shortfalls in the commonwealth.
The town adopted a 1/12th budget process for the short term in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In lieu of a town meeting to set the budget by the state's June 30 deadline, towns can opt to go one month at a time based on their fiscal 2020 budget.
The City Council on Thursday tabled the Pittsfield Public Schools fiscal 2021 budget of $64,493,70 at the conclusion of a four-hour-plus hearing after some technical difficulties brought the meeting to a grinding halt.
Town Moderator Chris Dodig kicked off the meeting by explaining the town's thought process in deciding to have the meeting at all despite the novel cooronavirus pandemic that has wreaked havoc on the municipal budget process across the state and forced many towns to postpone meetings and even some to go so far as to consider holding them outdoors.
School officials are bracing for a worst-case budget scenario that could mean the closure of one of the three elementary schools. At minimum, the district is anticipating reductions in positions. There's also the possibility of the reconfiguration of Brayton and Greylock schools.
The City Council met for day two of budget hearings Thursday night on the proposed $170 million spending plan for fiscal 2021 and preliminarily approved 10 departmental budgets unchanged in just under an hour and a half.
The figures are mostly set but the committee did make some updates on Monday, including the information technology budget and a school line item. The meeting was held by teleconference as Town Hall is still closed.
The fiscal 2021 budget has to be approved at town meeting by the end of the fiscal year on June 30, which might prove difficult given the social distancing guidelines — an auditorium full of people would violate every current regulation. If town meeting were postponed past that date, the town would have to revert back to its 2020 budget and work on a month-to-month basis.