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Pittsfield School Committee Sees Breakdown of FY23 Expenditures

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Pittsfield Public Schools spent a total of $135.8 million on education in fiscal year 2023. 

While the majority is attributed to the budget approved by the School Committee, this also includes a healthy amount of state aid and funds from other city departments.

On Wednesday, the committee received a presentation on education spending outside of the district budget and an update on the governor's proposed budget for fiscal 2025.

Assistant Superintendent for Business and Finance Kristen Behnke said the administration wants to make sure that the committee and public are aware that there is a lot of education spending that is not confined to the school operating budget.

"As part of the Massachusetts Education Reform Act, school districts in Massachusetts are required to report annually to [the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education] on something called the financial end-of-year report," she said.

"In Pittsfield, we have expenditures on three main sources: there's the School Committee budget that you approve each year, there's city of Pittsfield departmental budgets that we're going to talk more about as part of this presentation, and then there's our federal grants, state grants and revolving funds which over the last few years has grown significantly in part because of the ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) funds."

Some $22.7 million (17 percent) of the expenditures were from federal and state grants and revolving funds, $40.8 million (30 percent) was from city departmental expenditures, and $72.3 million (53 percent) was expended from the School Committee budget in FY23.

Some of the largest buckets of spending include:

  • insurance for current employees: $13.1M
  • school choice and charter tuition costs: $7.5M
  • employer retirement contributions to Pittsfield Retirement Board: $5.4M
  • insurance for retired school department employees: $4.5M
  • maintenance of school buildings and grounds: $1.8M
  • long term debt n school construction: $1.7M
  • student resource officers:  $171,000

The $1.8 million spent on the schools' buildings and grounds maintenance includes work from the Building Maintenance Department and the Parks Department's work on athletic fields and parking lots.

These numbers come from the Net School Spending Agreement

"Any municipal district is required to have a Net School Spending Agreement. They're actually approved by the commissioner of education," Behnke said.

"Ours was from 2004. We looked at numbers again in about 2016. When we looked at the agreement again, we decided not to make any changes to the language of the agreement but we did make some changes to how some of the numbers were calculated and what was included as part of the overall agreement at that time."

Of the Building Maintenance Department's one million dollar salary budget for FY24, more than $750,000, or 70 percent, is attributed to education. For the Parks Department, the more than $570,000 salary budget has nearly $230,000 attributed to education, or 40 percent.

Behnke explained that this also includes plowing of the parking lots in the wintertime.

Under the governor's budget, Pittsfield's state aid will increase by nearly $650,000 in FY25. In FY24, the city received $6.5 million more in aid, for a total of about $60 million.

Revised information showed that the city dipped down into a Group 10 low-income category, which results in dramatically less Chapter 70 funding, which is a hundreds of dollar difference per student.

Behnke reported that Pittsfield is right on the cusp, as the cutoff for Group 11 is 70 percent and the city is 69.96 percent. The administration received low-income student information from the state and is looking at it compared to the district's information to make sure that no students were missed in the count.

"It is not going to take a lot of students," she said. "If we find a handful of students it's possible that we can we can go back into group 11 which would give us approximately another $2 million."

Tags: Pittsfield Public Schools,   school budget,   

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North Street Parking Study Favors Parallel Parking

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A parking study of North Street will be presented at Tuesday's City Council meeting. The design maintains parallel parking while expanding pedestrian zones and adding protected bike lanes.

The city, by request, has studied parking and bike lane opportunities for North Street and come up with the proposal staged for implementation next year. 

While the request was to evaluate angle parking configurations, it was determined that it would present too many trade-offs such as impacts on emergency services, bike lanes, and pedestrian spaces.

"The commissioner has been working with Downtown Pittsfield Inc. and my office to come up with this plan," Mayor Peter Marchetti said during his biweekly television show "One Pittsfield."

"We will probably take this plan on the road to have many public input sessions and hopefully break ground sometime in the summer of 2025."

Working with Kittleson & Associates, the city evaluated existing typical sections, potential parking
configurations, and a review of parking standards. It compared front-in and back-in angle parking and explored parking-space count alterations, emergency routing, and alternate routes for passing through traffic within the framework of current infrastructure constraints.

The chosen option is said to align with the commitment to safety, inclusivity, and aesthetic appeal and offer a solution that enhances the streetscape for pedestrians, businesses, cyclists, and drivers without compromising the functionality of the corridor.

"The potential for increasing parking space is considerable; however, the implications on safety and the overall streetscape call for a balanced approach," Commissioner of Public Services and Utilities Ricardo Morales wrote.

Bike lanes and parking have been a hot topic over the last few years since North Street was redesigned.

In September 2020, the city received around $239,000 in a state Shared Streets and Spaces grant to support new bike lanes, curb extensions, vehicle lane reductions, and outdoor seating areas, and enhanced intersections for better pedestrian safety and comfort.

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