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McCann Budget Benefits From Increase in State Aid

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The McCann Technical School's $10 million fiscal 2021 budget represents an almost 5 percent increase.
The School Committee approved the $10,038,602 budget on Thursday that although is almost 5 percent more than the fiscal 2020 budget of $9,564,727 reflects a near $331,000 increase in state aid.
"There are a lot of positive things going on and you need money to make positive things work," School Committee member Daniel Maloney Jr. said. "It is not a windfall by any means at all but allows us to put some things back in the budget that we took out in years past." 
Maloney said the increase in state aid stems from the Student Opportunities Act and that McCann will receive $5,161,888 in state Chapter 70  education funding. Last year, the regional school district received $4,829,906. 
"It creates a significant amount of funding that we desperately needed," he said. "Every year, when we look at the budget the fixed costs just keep going up and up and we have to find ways to absorb them."
Superintendent James Brosnan said the increase does come with strings attached and that the school must submit a plan to the state outlining how it plans to spend the increase.
"They are giving us about eight categories where we can use the money. Staffing, teaching, lowering class sizes -- that type of thing," he said. "They have to approve it. That is why we are looking at staffing for class sizes and meeting those requirements. We are gathering all of those pieces."
The plan needs to be submitted by April and Brosnan said he will have a plan in front of the School Committee by its March meeting.
"We don't have much time but that's OK, I will take the increase," he said. "We can hustle up a plan and this is brand new for everybody but I think it is well worth it."
Maloney said transportation funding has also increased from $275,000 to $310,000 and that the total municipal minimum assessment increased from $3,067,978 to $3,203,871.
Backing out these state increases leaves the budget in close range of the fiscal 2020 budget.
"We have made an effort to shift things and reorganize things because it was just creeping up on us and we were really looking at hitting $1 million," he said. "But that number has gone down considerably over the years."
This does not mean all communities will see a decrease in their total assessments and in many cases communities will still see an increase in their municipal minimum assessment.
This calculated number is tied to enrollment and the relative wealth of the community.
Adams will be assessed the most at $1,071,858 with 141 students enrolled. North Adams is next with an assessment of $946,328 and 149 students enrolled.
Cheshire has the next highest enrollment of 51 and will be assessed $512,033. Clarksburg, with 50 students enrolled, will be assessed $371,727.
The rest of the communities will see minor increases or even decreases.  
Brosnan quickly went through the budget that as he stated in past years was "vanilla" and noted many line items are essentially flat beyond contractual increases and other fixed costs 
The capital assessment increased $11,444, totaling $59,163. Maloney said a lot of these funds will be used to continue asbestos abatement.
He said they continue to maintain the aging building and address projects every year. 
"Rather than rebuild a completely new school, we are trying to piecemeal projects every year," he said. 
Brosnan added that the heating and air conditioning system will be an ongoing cost. 
"It's an aging system and we are finding there are certain systems in the building that I can't get motors for because they don't make them anymore," he said. "So we have to change the units."
The School Committee unanimously approved the budget and thanked Brosnan and the budget subcommittee for their work.
"Thank you for that very thorough review of the budget ... good job putting this together," Chairman Gary Rivers said. 

Tags: fiscal 2021,   McCann,   school budget,   

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Governor Announces COVID-19 Relief Fund, Testing Facility for WMass

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
BOSTON — A COVID-19 testing facility is expected to be up and running in West Springfield by the end of the week for public safety workers.  
The information was provided at Gov. Charlie Baker's daily update on Monday, which also included the announcement of a $13 million Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund to support local foundations and community assets, especially front-line workers during the novel coronavirus pandemic. 
The governor had indicated on Sunday the possibility of a testing center Western Massachusetts while speaking at the opening of a drive-through testing center at Gillette Stadium for first-responders. Two drive-through testing sites were set up about two weeks ago in Waltham and Shrewsbury. 
"We've now tested about 76,500 people in Massachusetts and 13,837 have tested positive," he said. "Tomorrow we'll announce a new site, in partnership with CVS, that will conduct up to 1,000 tests a day. ... There's another one that will be going up probably later this week at the Big E in West Springfield."
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