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Hoosac Valley Looks to Offset Budget Hike With State Aid

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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ADAMS, Mass. — Hoosac Valley Regional School District is expecting to cover most of the increase in its budget next year with state funding. 
The Audit & Evaluation Committee reviewed last week the first draft of the fiscal 2025 budget that is up a $1 million over last year. 
"The excellent news again, is that we're increasing approximately $500,000 in Chapter 70 to one point finding that a lot of it has to do with us reaching thresholds for special education needs and again for economically disadvantaged," said Superintendent Aaron Dean. "That's in our program and it's given us the opportunity to build on what we started."
The administration is projecting a total budget of $23 million, up $1,091,665, or 5 percent, over this year. That increase will be offset by some $988,524 total in state aid. 
The largest drivers are locked in costs, including some $400,000 for step and contracted raises. Several positions are being consolidated and eliminated through attrition. 
The governor's budget has an increase of $584,055 for Chapter 70 school aid with total aid adding up to $10,163,912.
Regional transportation is down from $410,000 to $321,000 because of lower costs and school choice is down but tuition is up, in part because of a tuition agreement signed with Savoy for Grades 7 and 8. 
Dean pointed out that net school spending — the minimum that the towns must spend for education — is also up, bringing the increase to more like 1.7 percent. 
The total assessment for Adams is $6,481,435, down $45,520 over this year; and Cheshire's is $3,097,123, up $148,661. 
"This is kind of where those discussions about enrollment really comes into play. It really impacts the developmental piece. The state determines the minimum local contribution," said Dean. "We're kind of doing a little bit of the opposite of what happened last year. We've had that dynamic game of one year Cheshire goes up 6 percent and Adams goes up at a lower percentage, and then it goes the other way."
Adams has 720 students and Cheshire 224. Dean said the projections for enrollment are stable at about 1,000 with school choice and tuition students making up the balance. Committee members asked if the new pathways program is having an effect but the superintendent said not yet. 
Dean noted that the administration had planned for the so-called ESSER cliff last year. The federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund had provided a cushion for school districts during the pandemic but that funding is now ending. 
"Last year we made sure that we pulled in the positions that were core to our programming into the budget," Dean said. "So that planning had allowed us to be in a much better place this year."
The district also plans to dip into its Excess & Deficiency fund for $245,000 for maintenance and capital projects. 
"It's for addressing a one-time issue, and each school based on my projections, on current year's spending and revenue coming in even using this we'll still be hovering around that 5 percent (in reserve)," said Business Manager Erika Snyder. "But for now I'm taking an additional $170,000 from E&D, adding it to the $75,000 that we planned on doing and then ... applying that to each of the schools for kind of extraordinary stuff. It doesn't impact the towns at all."
In terms of staff, there will be 2.8 full-time equivalent teaching positions will be shifted into the pre-Kindergarten grant. This grant will allow the addition of a full-day classroom for 4-year-olds and a half-day for 3-year-olds.
The school district also has partnered with two outside child-care programs that get the same training and materials but offer longer hours for parents. 
"The goal is to promote school readiness and get them a solid foundation," said Dean. "This year was kind of like a pilot year to see how things go."
The high school is looking at reducing and restructuring school counselors through a grant, though Dean said the administration is "not totally sold" on it yet. 
A vacant information technology position will be eliminated and the district will share IT support with North Adams. A Spanish teaching position won't be filled and the school is trying to find outside funding for two full-time psychologists. 
There have been several experienced hires for the pathways program along with an Innovation Pathways grant of $75,000 for equipment and materials for medical programming and the school received a Student Opportunity Act grant of $250,000 for student support services.
Committee members noted that the budget might be $22 million but the school district is probably spending closer to $27 million because of the grants it's been able to pull in. 
The committee expects to hold another review next week and invite finance representatives from the two towns; a public hearing on the budget is tentatively set for March 11 with the full School Committee. 

Tags: fiscal 2025,   HVRSD_budget,   

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BArT Announces Third Quarter Honor Roll

ADAMS, Mass. — Berkshire Arts & Technology (BArT) Charter Public School has announced the students who made the honor roll for the third quarter of the 2023-2024 school year. 
Students who earned 80 percent or above in all of their classes received the distinction of "Honors." Students who earned 90 percent or above in all of their classes received the distinction of "High Honors."
Academic courses at BArT are aligned with the Massachusetts State Curriculum Frameworks for the appropriate grade level and include all standards deemed necessary for a complete, college-preparatory, middle and high school education.
Students in Grade 6 who earned High Honors are Abigail Betti, Jaydn Bolus-Strawbridge, Majbrit Carpenter, Bailee Cimini, Kason Corkins, Alex Demary, Norah Duffy, Noah Hall, Riley Hitchcock, Kourtney Hoang, Tristan Larkin, Delroy Leard, Morgan Legrand, Ian Lloyd, Allanah McCabe, Dante McClerklin, Joey Nocher, Stephen Nyamehen, Cooper Olimpo, Gustavo Perez, Rufus Quirke de Jong, Isabella Rosales, Armani Roy, Niyah Scipio, Emma Sherman, Isabella Silva, Paige Tetreault, and Kevin Toomey.
Students in Grade 6 who earned Honors are Daniel Aguilar, Liam Connors, Audrey Costigan, Zoey Dudek-Linnehan, David Fernandez, Mason Goodermote, Harmony Greco-Melendez, Sakora Knight, Anelia Lang, Miah Morgan-Enos, Aiyanah Roy, Maxwell Stolzberg, and Patrick Wells Vidal.
Students in Grade 7 who earned High Honors are Mary Mame Akua Asare, Paige Bartlett, Madalyn Benson, Demitri Burnham, Anastasia Carty, Vincente Choque, McKenna Cramer, Kierra Dearstyne, Deandra Hage, Ashley Heck, Callie Meyette, Quinlan Nesbit, Hadley Richard, Jayden Ruopp, Kie Sherman, Gabriel Thomas, Edrisa Touray, and Tyler Williams.
Students in Grade 7 who earned Honors are Samuel Bellows, Joshua Codding, Addison Cooper, Ava DeVylder, Wyatt Drosehn, Emil Gehlot, Roger LaRocca, Hadley Madole, Maddison Moore, Alexis Munson, Leafy Murphy, Chris-Raphael Natama, Anthony Salta, Althea Schneider, Aiden Smith, Jaden Wells-Vidal, Kyler Wick, and Mckenzie Witto.
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