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Hoosac Valley School Committee Accepts Fiscal 2021 Budget

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Hoosac Valley Regional School Committee has accepted a $20.1 million budget for fiscal 2021 that will mean the loss of 20 positions. 
 
The $20,100,111 spending plan approved earlier this month eliminates 18 paraprofessionals and two teachers and is essentially level funded.
 
"Any time you have to reduce staff in a budget it is painful personally and professionally," Superintendent Aaron Dean said. "However, this year's budget required a reset, so we can be sustainable moving forward."
 
Dean said budget numbers did not change from the initial March budget hearing but there were some changes to the reductions. To minimize the affect on teaching staff, two special education coordinators posts were eliminate and replaced with an associate director position.
 
"This change allowed us to keep a much needed elementary teaching position in place in response to growing enrollment in the elementary school," Dean said. "Many of the reductions, mostly paraprofessionals, were steps we took to right-size programming in the middle and high schools."
 
The entire budget is only up $624 and Adams will see an assessment of $5,925,327 and Cheshire $2,855,411.
 
Dean said this budget cuts the district's reliance on excess and deficiency funds to reduce town assessments.
 
"This reality forced school leaders to look closely at every area of their building based budgets," he said. "There are better ways we can structure supports to be more efficient and effective and this budget plan is our first step in making those adjustments."
 
He expected the district in coming years will build out multi-tiered systems of support to provide effective early intervention and use data systems to better target those supports.   
 
Dean did add that he has concerns about the economic slowdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the fiscal 2021 budget. Legislators are starting over on budget scenarios with the expectation that billions in revenue will be lost because of the pandemic.
 
"While we have put together a responsible budget, there's a lot of uncertainty on the state and local levels," he said. "I'm fairly certain the process will carry well into the summer based on information we're getting from state and local officials. At this point we'll prepare a few different scenarios, understanding the situation with reduced revenues.
 
"However, with so many unknowns we really need to let the process play itself out."

Tags: fiscal 2021,   HVRSD,   HVRSD_budget,   

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Father Tom Tent Site Becoming a Reality in Cheshire

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent
CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Father Tom Tent Site is inching closer to its "official" opening. 
 
Named after the former pastor of St. Mary's Church, the Rev. Thomas Begley, the site will serve through-hikers of the Appalachian Trail and give them a place to regroup for a night or two while charging electronics, replenishing their water supply, and getting rid of refuse
 
Highway Superintendent Robert Navin said he hopes to have the water line completed this week, which would leave just a few loose ends to tie up before making the official announcement. One very loose end is the COVID-19 pandemic and the unique safety concerns that constantly arise from the virus. 
 
"I've liked this idea a lot and I'm glad to see everything moving forward. With that being said I guess I just have reservations in the climate we find ourselves in making sure that everything is being cleaned as often as possible," said Town Administrator Edmund St. John IV. "I think we need adequate signage saying, to some extent, campers are using these facilities at their own risk. Whether or not it's a valid concern it's just a concern that I have." 
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