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Hoosac Valley Presents Proposed $20.3M Budget for FY22

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Hoosac Valley Regional School Committee was presented on Monday with a proposed $20,343,715 budget for fiscal 2022.
Superintendent Aaron Dean and Business Manager Erika Snyder said spending plan has a small increase of 1.21 percent, or a $243,603 increase, over this fiscal year.
"Based on what we have for the numbers, I feel like this is the most responsible way to go to provide the quality education that our kids deserve," Dean told the committee. 
In late February, school officials presented the town of Adams with a budget update. They noted with stagnating Chapter 70 education funds, they were considering three budget scenarios that represented different levels of increases to the Adams' assessment ranging from 0.64 percent to 7.22 percent.
The recommended budget was scenario 2, the middle point between the two other budget scenarios. This was voted on by the Audit and Evaluation subcommittee.
This budget represents a $260,051 (4.91 percent)  increase to the town of Adams and a $309 (0.01 percent) decrease to the town of Cheshire. These numbers are determined by shifts in enrollment. 
Adams will see a total assessment of $5,558,483 and Cheshire will see a total assessment of $2,615,810, within the levy limit.
The budget calls for some reductions and Dean proposed cutting three paraprofessional positions and one teacher position. The paraprofessional reductions would be made through attrition. The teacher position would be restructured.
Dean said Adams has requested a smaller increase closer to scenario 3 that would mean a smaller increase of $171,888 to Adams.
"Adams also has limited resources," Dean said. "We feel comfortable with this budget, but I don't know if Adams necessarily does." 
 Dean said he will continue to work with the town to see where adjustments can be made.
He said he was hesitant to cut too deeply into the "core" budget. He said the closer the district moves toward scenario 3 the more cuts it will have to make.
"I really don't want to do that because we could end up with staff reductions in a time where we need staff in a dire way," Dean said. "We felt comfortable with scenario 2 because we were still able to drive things forward."
He said further cuts would likely be at the elementary level, which would mean larger class sizes.
The district plans to utilize Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds in all three budget scenarios. However, the preference is to utilize the funds for one-time expenses or expenses that can be shifted into the budget. Scenario 3 would be more dependent on ESSER funds that will not be available in years to come.
Dean added that further cuts and dependence on temporary funds could mean another large consolidation in years to come.
"I think further consolidation would only create more hurt for these two communities," he said. "I think we need to keep what we got."
The scenario 2 budget does maintain support staff required to provide special education services and includes funds to begin technology replacement cycles. Dean said this is an increase to the tune of $168,700. 
Dean said now that the district is so dependent on technology, he felt it was important to continually cycle in new devices and resources.
"I know it is a big increase but we are relying so much on technology more than ever," he said.
The budget also funds the additional custodian to support continued cleaning needs and mitigation because of the pandemic.
It also supports the continued expansion of high school pathways.
Dean said grant funds will allow the district to maintain three teaching positions, target needs created by the pandemic, update programming, address building maintenance, and
address technology needs among other things. 
Specifically, grant funds will support one reading specialist, an additional school psychologist, the updating of English language arts programming, the strengthening of math interventions, and the maintaining the special education coordinator, among other things.
Dean went over some of the main drivers in the budget and said they were needed technology upgrades and contractual increases. Building maintenance, retirement contributions, and the transportation contract were also factors.
The superintendent said he will continue to tinker with the budget and continue conversations with the towns.
"We will either present the same thing or make some revisions," he said. "We will figure out what we need in the next couple of weeks."

Tags: fiscal 2022,   HVRSD_budget,   school budget,   

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Cheshire Town Meeting to Vote on Appointing Clerk, Tax Collector

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
Updated with corrected quote from the Town Clerk and clarification from the Select Board Chairwoman
CHESHIRE, Mass. — The town will move toward making the town clerk and tax collector positions appointed instead of elected.
During a budget discussion Tuesday, the Selectmen voted to place an article on the town meeting warrant that would change some town clerical positions from elected to appointed.
The discussion arose from Town Clerk Christine Emerson's budget presentation. She added in a $10,000 line item to hire an assistant who she can train to replace her in the three remaining years she wishes to work.  
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