Proposed Hoosac Valley School District Budget Over $20M

By Brian RhodesiBerkshires Staff
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Hoosac Valley Regional School Committee held a public hearing Monday for the district's more than $20 million budget for fiscal 2023, a 1.96 percent increase over last year's budget.

"I think it's a very sound budget," said Superintendent Aaron Dean.

The exact figure for the FY23 budget is $20,625,439, a $396,725 increase from last year. The town's Chapter 70 education funding only increased by $35,811 this year.

"Which means a large portion of any increase that we have is going to fall to the towns," said Erika Snyder, business administrator, who noted the needed total assessment for the two towns in the district is $8,376,360. This assessment equates to a $167,041 increase for Adams and a $150,036 increase for Cheshire.

While the committee did not vote on the budget Monday night, it plans to vote on it at a meeting on March 28. After the budget is approved, the next step is to meet with the member towns for approval.

"We received this tonight; we can all look at it, we can ask more questions about it at the next meeting, the public can ask questions at the beginning of the next meeting," board Chair Michael Mucci said.

Snyder noted a decrease in enrollment in the district this year. Overall, there are 26 fewer students from Adams and one more from Cheshire, which Snyder said impacted the assessment allocations for each town.

"I think everybody is aware of how we've been trending over the past few years, so this year is no different. Our enrollment has gone down slightly," Snyder said.

In addition to Chapter 70 funding and assessments from Adams and Cheshire, Snyder said the district is also taking advantage of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund grants. She said this money should fund multiple things, including core teaching positions as the district goes through a curriculum overhaul.

"While we're maintaining positions, we're also going to look at how can we better utilize some of these positions to meet some of them coming up as a result of the pandemic or other things. ... A lot of work would not be possible without these grants. I think these are an important piece to move the district forward," Dean said.

Mucci said he is happy the district managed to keep its budget increase under 2 percent.

"There's been a lot of strategic placement of what gets placed into escrow funds so that we can use those as much as we can, but still leave us in a position when those dry up in the future, where the budget is still whole and sound," he said.

Dean said this budget allows the district to keep class sizes at a number he believes is a reasonable amount. He said going higher would be detrimental to instruction.

"I don't think it would be morally sound to say that we're going to push class sizes up to 25 to save budget money because students are not going to get what they need," he said. "To keep our class sizes smaller, we need to structure our schedule so we can get small group instruction and really target students' needs."

In addition to the budget, the board also unanimously approved a three-year transportation contract with Dufour Transportation, which was the only bidder. After three years, the board will have the option to extend the contract, which has a four percent increase in the first year and a three percent increase in the second and third years.

"Given the fuel situation, I think this is kind of a no-brainer for us," Dean said. "Dufour has been solid. They've worked really well with us through the pandemic. We've worked well together, and they provided an excellent service in many ways."

Hoosac Valley's school choice and charter sending assessments have also increased. Snyder said neither has gone up significantly, but both tend to increase year-over-year.

"Despite us having a pretty consistent number in regards to how many students go there, the rate at which they assess and reimburse is based on a formula," she said. "It's tiered in terms of the percentage that you're responsible for as the student travels through the school. That number is ever-changing, but it's usually increasing."

Tags: fiscal 2023,   HVRSD_budget,   

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Cheshire Festival of Trees Opens in Community House

Staff ReportsiBerkshires

See more photos of the Festival of Trees opening here
CHESHIRE, Mass. — The town's decorated its new quarters in the former school with more than three dozen Christmas trees and wreaths. 
The first annal Festival of Trees features trees and wreaths decorated by town departments, businesses and local organizations. All the trees came from Whitney's Farm Market & Garden Center and were decorated with creativity by the participants. 
They ranged from a Canadian goose-feathered tree by the Hoosac Lake District, automotive designs from Bedard Bros., twinkling ornaments from Cheshire Glassworks, a Hurricanes Pride tree, a cheese-topped entry by the Cheshire Historical Commission, along with pickleballs, logging, trash pandas, cooking supplies, and numerous outdoors-themed firs. 
The town's departments and services weren't to be outdone, with a the Highway Department's caution tree, a crispy entry from the Fire Department, a Grinch in police handcuffs and a burst water main.  
The festival opened on Sunday evening with a visit from Santa Claus, cookies and hot cocoa, and holiday music. 
The trees can be viewed at the Community House through Dec. 31 on Monday through Thursday from 10 to 4, on Fridays until 9, Saturdays from 6 to 9 and Sundays from noon to 9. 
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