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The Finance Committee met with school officials on Monday to review the line item budget.

Lanesborough Gets First Look at Mount Greylock Budget

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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The percentages of how much each town pays is swinging more toward the north.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The town is being asked to spend about $64,000 more this year to support the schools.
The Mount Greylock Regional School District is proposing a $22.4 million operating budget for the three schools — Mount Greylock, Williamstown Elementary, and Lanesborough Elementary. Lanesborough's assessment is proposed at $5,817,500, which is 1.1 percent more than last year.
School officials presented the budget, which was previously passed by the School Committee, to the Lanesborough Finance Committee on Monday night.
Superintendent Kimberly Grady said the budget focuses on a few targeted areas including aligning curriculum, increasing technology, and educating students with disabilities. It calls for a new staff member to oversee curriculum, hires specialists for special educational needs, and brings in a person to oversee building and grounds at all three schools.
The budget calls for a significant upgrade to Lanesborough Elementary School's internet service as well as repairing the phone and public announcement system.
"We have identified some issues at Lanesborough," Grady said of capital needs at the 15 or so year old building.
Of particular interest for Lanesborough is a greater shift of the cost burden to Williamstown. School Committee member Joe Bergeron said the state recently dubbed Lanesborough an "above effort" community when it comes to support and Williamstown a "below effort" community. That changes the state's determination on how the costs are split.
Further, Bergeron said the equalized valuations of the two towns continued to separate and a swing in enrollment numbers furthered that switch.
"It is a continued trend of capital apportionment moving toward Williamstown covering more for the new middle and high school and Lanesborough covering less," Bergeron said.
The line budget was given to the Finance Committee, which questioned various aspects of it as it relates to Lanesborough. But, at this point, the committee felt it was too early to give either support or opposition to it. 
"This is a difficult year for Lanesborough. We are just starting our budget process. This is our first meeting regarding the budget so we don't have a feel of our ability," Finance Committee member Ron Tinkham said.
Tinkham noted there could be a potential loss of tax revenue coming to the town in the coming year that he is wary of happening. He told Grady that the town could very well ask for reductions to the budget.
"We may have to come back and ask for some help," Tinkham said.
Finance Committee Steven Wentworth questioned an expense for out of district tuition. That had been in the town's budget and has since been moved to the school budget.
"We're paying it this year. It is not hitting the towns so it is a saving to town," Grady said.
Lanesborough will have additional paraprofessionals in the classroom, and the new director of building and grounds will help maintain the elementary school. It will also have some one-time costs for capital repairs.
Grady continued that the district needs to improve in reading and math for those with disabilities at the elementary school level. The budget supports bringing interventions to the classrooms earlier to help keep students on track so they don't require special education later.
"We are looking to bring in some reading training and getting some teachers there," she said, also adding that the district wants to get more robust reading material for the children.
Grady added that moving forward contracts with paraprofessionals and custodians should be settled soon and the district already has an agreement with the teachers in place. That should give some consistency in budgeting in the years to come.
This year has been a particularly low enrollment figure for Lanesborough, she said, with 172 students in the school. That trend could lead to a reduction in staff in the future if it continues.
"The numbers are getting smaller, smaller than I've seen in the 10 years I've been here," Grady said.
Finance Committee member Rebecca Flood questioned an increase in the custodial line. Bergeron said that line had been underfunded last year because of overtime and that the district is bringing on an additional custodian to care for the new Mount Greylock. He said the large increase is both making that budget whole plus the additional person.
A few other areas of the budget were questioned because of large increases but those were either a move in how an item is paid — such as a human resources professional that was funded out of contractual services being moved to the administration budget — or the loss of a grant that paid for a position or  program such as summer school.

Tags: fiscal 2020,   MGRSD_budget,   school budget,   

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Pittsfield Airport to Serve as Hub For Disaster Preparedness

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent

Thomas Grady, left, Robert Czerwinski, and Lucy Britton at Wednesday's Central Berkshire Regional Emergency Planning Committee meeting.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Berkshire County has received a total of $71,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a "point of distribution," or POD, training grant to aid residents in the event of a public disaster or emergency. 
The Central Berkshire Regional Emergency Planning Committee announced the grants at its meeting Wednesday morning in Lanesborough.
Central Berkshire received $25,000 while the Northern and Southern Berkshire committees each were awarded $23,000 from the highly competitive grant program.
Bruce Augusti from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency's regional office in Agawam was in attendance to break the news and give credit to the parties involved.
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