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School officials are hoping the City Council will accept its budget with no changes on Thursday.

Pittsfield Schools Leadership Hopeful For Budget Approval

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Pittsfield Public Schools is urging the City Council to pass the level-funded budget it submitted to avoid a 1/12th budget scenario.
Superintendent Jason Mccandless told the School Committee on Wednesday that he is hoping the contentious $64.4 million school budget clears the City Council's final vote but a 1/12th budget is being prepared.
"It certainly will put a kink in the hose of long-range planning beyond getting through the summer and preparing for the fall," he said. "We will work around this because that is what we do but I hope that the folks voting on this keep in mind that this will create difficulties on the school side."
The City Council preliminarily approved the $170 million fiscal 2021 municipal budget except for the level-funded education budget that was sent back to the School Committee for reconsideration.
Some councilors wanted to see an increase in the education budget that would recall some of the 26 positions to be eliminated.
But Monday night, the School Committee voted 4-3 to volley the budget back to the council as is.
School Committee members who supported the level-funded budget cast their vote hoping to approve a workable spending plan while they await more information on actual Chapter 70 state education aid numbers. If Chapter 70 comes in drastically lower than level, they wanted all resources available to balance the budget.
This was also the opinion of school administration, which also has the overarching fear of not passing a budget before the end of the month. Without a budget in place by June 30, the city would be forced to adopt a month-by-month budget, virtually eliminating the district's ability to plan ahead and turning up the heat on an already stressful time.
"We are preparing for the reality that we may have to deal with a 1/12th budget," McCandless said. "We are preparing, for that may be reality."
McCandless outlined some of the complications a 1/12th budget would create and said pulling back the 140 reduction in force and non-renewal notices would become more difficult.
Also budgeting month to month would create new challenges when hiring staff.
"We had some very specialized therapeutic positions that we are going ahead and hiring even though we don't know the state of the budget," he said. "Because folks with those certifications, if they want to be here we want to have them. We need them to be here."
Without clear opening guidelines available yet, budgeting month to month would further impede the ability to plan for the upcoming school year. 
"We won't know exactly what we are going to look like in the fall," he said. School officials are anticipating that the governor will be releasing information on school reopenings on Thursday.
Mccandless said it would also put the pause on some summer capital improvement projects.
He said no matter what the case, they will continue to stay in close contact with the bargaining unions and school employees as well as continue advocating for proper Chapter 70 funding.
"We will continue to lobby, push, beg, yell, and shake our fists at the sky demanding that chapter 70 at a minimum is level," he said.
The City Council will vote on the entire budget Thursday night. If councilors do not approve the budget, they will legally have to adopt a 1/12th budget.
"If we don't get the six votes we will start planning for a 1/12th budget that also needs City Council approval," Tyer said. "Every month that we submit a spending plan, it will require City Council approval." 

Tags: fiscal 2021,   Pittsfield Public Schools,   pittsfield_budget,   school budget,   

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Pittsfield In-Person Tree Lighting Ceremony Returns After 2-Year Hiatus

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

The Laviolette family donated the tree and turned on the lights on Friday.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Hundreds gathered at Park Square on Friday for the city's first in-person tree lighting ceremony in three years.

The 25-foot tall white spruce is adorned by 20,000 lights, illuminating the area and spreading holiday cheer.

"There are so many kids and families here this evening and I know everyone is anxious to see the beautiful tree that was donated by the Laviolette family," Mayor Linda Tyer said right before the switch was flipped.

"Thank you for your generosity. This tree will provide a whole month of beauty and festivity for all of us to enjoy and I love coming to the tree lighting because when you look all around Park Square, you can see just how beautiful our city is at this time of year."

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