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Superintendent John Vosburgh presents the fiscal 2020 budget to the School Committee on Monday at Hoosac Valley High School.

Adams-Cheshire Considers $20M Budget for Fiscal 2020

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Adams-Cheshire Regional School Committee on Monday heard the administration's proposed fiscal 2020 budget that represents a 1.77 percent increase over this year's 2019.

A public hearing on the budget was held last week and the School Committee is expected to vote on the budget next week. 

Before going into the proposed $20,099,487 spending plan, Superintendent John Vosburgh in presenting his first budget said it does not contain any major new additions but it does repurpose funds to better suit the district's needs.

"Knowing that we didn't want to go into a budget season having a huge increase with respect to the taxpayers we asked the principals to take a hard look at what they are currently using our resources for," he said. "We asked them to take their wish lists and rethink and repurpose what we currently have to make it work without making any additions."

Business Manager Erika Snyder lead the budget review and said the total fiscal 2020 budget is $349,341 more than fiscal 2019's $19,750,146 budget.

She said Chapter 70 state aid increases have stayed consistent and the district is projected to receive $10,893,659.

"It is not giving us a ton but it is a little bit more," she said. "This is usually the baseline. If anything, it might go up a little."

She added that transportation reimbursement, charter tuition reimbursement, and school choice receiving tuition brings this amount to $11,033,327.

The bulk of the rest of the foundation budget will come from Adams and Cheshire: Adams' minimum local contribution will be $4,544,723 and Cheshire's will be $2,428,879.

These numbers are calculated by the state and the local contribution calculation considers a community's wealth.

The over-the-minimum number, which is based on enrollment, will also be tacked on to the assessments and will bring Adams' assessment to $4,698,097, a 6.027 percent increase, and Cheshire will see a $2,477,696 assessment, or a 3.828 percent increase.

The complete foundation budget is $18,237,635.

The transportation budget of $943,464 and the complete capital budget is $918,387 also have to be reflected in the assessments.

Snyder noted the transportation assessments actually decreased and Adams will see a reduction of $44,668 and Cheshire of $21,197 over this year.

She added this is also true of the capital assessments and Adams will see a decrease of $28,696 and Cheshire one of $14,004.

The total town assessment for Adams is $5,792,649, which is a 3.11 percent increase, and Cheshire's total assessment is $2,844,995, which is a 1.793 percent increase.

Snyder backed out project debt that is calculated outside of the towns' levy limits: Adams' total assessment within the levy limit is $5,140,669 and Cheshire's is $2,616,625.

Snyder said there are new positions built into the budget and by repurposing funds from a no-longer-needed sign language interpreter and savings from attrition the district will bring on a reading interventionist and a learning lab teacher.

Vosburgh went on about the learning lab teacher who will help address the district's high dropout rate.

"It's kind of a hybrid position to support some of our students who are credential deficient. We actually have an unusually high dropout rate. It's 3 percent right now," he said. "This position will allow them to do some stuff online. It's a light at the end of the tunnel."

He said this teacher will also accommodate students who want to take online Advanced Placement courses.

Positions added in the previous budget will remain.

Snyder highlighted some of the increases that include $140,000 in contractual increases, $35,000 in retirement contributions, $10,000 in charter school assessment, and $50,000 in choice assessment.

She moved $100,000 used from school choice to fund teachers to the operating budget because the school choice budget cannot sustain these positions.

"In the past, we funded three to five teachers with school choice but it is not sustainable," she said. "Over the years it has dwindled so I brought it down to 2.5 positions."

The School Committee had no real concerns with the proposed budget. Only member Peter Tatro spoke out against the budget because he felt it did not provide a clear plan and identity to help attract students and bolster the district's enrollment.

"When I look at this as a whole and I see our costs and I feel as though in two or three years we are going to have to go back to cutting positions if our enrollment continues to drop," he said. "We can't keep waiting -- we need a plan and an identity."

Vosburgh said he would not want to go with a specific focus without looking at data and seeing exactly what students want. He said future data will support what pathways the district offers and what courses they add.

"I don't think that we are prepared yet to say we are a magnet STEM school and I would be concerned with that because what if you are a student that is not into STEM," he said. "We have data that supports the three pathways we are going to offer and we can expand. We want to be really thoughtful about our course offerings and hit as many groups of kids in our community as we can."

Hoosac Valley High School Principal Colleen Byrd agreed and said the high school is currently collecting this data and looking into what students do after they graduate. She said she was confident that these pathways informed by data will give the school an identity.

Chairman Paul Butler said even though the district may be moving towards a STEM, or science, technology, engineering, math, focus it still need to have other offerings.

"We were always a sports school and that is great but it almost masked the fact that we sent a lot of kids off to really great schools," he said. "We may move toward STEM but there are a lot of courses I think we still have to have. I think we need to be inclusive to all kids this is still a public high school."

Tags: ACRSD_budget,   fiscal 2020,   school budget,   

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Cheshire Cleaned Up In May

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
CHESHIRE, Mass. — A pandemic should never stop a little spring cleaning and residents took the month of May to spruce up the town.
Since 2014, the Cheshire Community Association has organized a community cleanup during the month of May and even with challenges this year they found a way to persist.
"The CCA's first community event in October 2014 was a town clean-up day that attracted more than 40 hardy souls, including State Representative Gail Cariddi (may she rest in peace)," Cheshire Community Association members John Tremblay and Eileen Quinn said in a joint email. "During this very challenging time of separation and anxiety, our objective is to use this shared goal as a way of maintaining connection among our residents and continuing to build on the theme of ‘Cheshire Proud'."
Of course there is a stress on health and safety this year and volunteers are asked to wear personal protective equipment and work with family members or alone to minimize contact with others.
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