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McCann Passes $12.1M Budget for Fiscal 2025

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Northern Berkshire Regional School District is looking at a 5 percent increase for fiscal 2025. 
The total budget is $12,092,886, up $593,820 over this year. Superintendent James Brosnan noted that the net school spending for the communities in the regional district has also increased, putting the total over minimum assessment at 1.9 percent. 
"I want you to notice at the very bottom it says the budget is gone up $593,000, or it's up by 5.16 percent," Brosnan told the McCann School Committee on Thursday. "But I want you to look at the next one, the net school spending was up $340,331. The delta between those two is 1.95. So in essence, to stay the same you will raise your budget by 3.21 percent. We've added another 1.95."
Chapter 70 school funds are almost $200,000, or 3 percent, transportation aid is up $44,000 and tuition by $81,000. 
Daniel Maloney Jr., chair of the Finance Committee, pointed out that the district will be losing funds its depended upon for the last several years with ending of the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund program. Brosnan had been able to "get creative" with grants to keep the numbers down he said. 
"The days when we actually had some flexibility or some things we could work with ourselves and we could probably change some things, but costs are all about fixed costs," he said. "Look at some of the numbers. ... even if you want to change the numbers, I'm just saying that there are very little flexibility there and everything is fixed, salaries and insurance, all things that tend to go up every year."
McCann is a vocational school so a lot of the materials students need are from the construction and metalworking industries, all of which have seen soaring costs the last few years. 
"Think about building a house and what it costs, it's staggering numbers," Maloney said. "You have to have some consumables for students to work on." 
Instructional equipment and related supplies have risen $100,000 over the last three cycles. Also up in health insurance at 7 percent, instrucational salaries and software. 
"We had to make some changes and we did some programming changes in here in terms of how we categorize some expenses," said Brosnan in reviewing the budget. 
Student services will include memberships and materials and supplies and special education, he said, "so we can better understand where we're spending." 
The district now has students that fall into the English Language Learners category and is working North Adams Public Schools and Hoosac Valley Regional to provide those services. He said McCann, like many schools, is seeing more need for student supports following the pandemic. 
He also noted the increase in transportation aid and reminded the School Committee that the district has traditionally reimbursed the towns for monies not spent in that category. 
Community assessments are largely based on enrollment, with Adams and North Adams at the highest  this coming year. Adams is looking at a total assessment of $1,063,774 and North Adams of $1,071,065. Monroe has the smallest assessment at $21,093.
The committee passed the budget unanimously. 
In other business, Vice Principal Keith Daigneault reported that the school had been able to place 87 percent of the freshman class in their first choice and 12 percent in their second. Only one student was placed in their third choice and no one in a fourth choice.
"We've never had those types of placement numbers," he said, adding he believed it was "partially due to the addition of the HVAC shop in that selection and just spreading things out."
The school has added a heating, ventilation and air conditioning program this year and a building is under construction on campus to host it. Daigneault said between 20 and 30 had applied for that program with 15 placed. 
"It had a lot of interest. It was not our No. 1 selected shop this year but it was in the top three or four," he said. 
Brosnan felt the placement numbers were the result of giving students more time to try out the shops. The exploratory program rotates the students through all the shops but this year they were provided with an extra week in their top four choices. 
"That second tier really, really gives them a real good idea of what the program is about," agreed Daigneault. "The first tier is kind of an intro and the second tier a more in-depth so they get the feel of what that program is really about."
Administrators are hoping this will reduce waiting lists and frustrations for students. 

Tags: fiscal 2025,   McCann,   school budget,   

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North Adams to Begin Study of Veterans Memorial Bridge Alternatives

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

Mayor Jennifer Macksey says the requests for qualifications for the planning grant should be available this month. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Connecting the city's massive museum and its struggling downtown has been a challenge for 25 years. 
A major impediment, all agree, is the decades old Central Artery project that sent a four-lane highway through the heart of the city. 
Backed by a $750,000 federal grant for a planning study, North Adams and Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art are looking to undo some of that damage.
"As you know, the overpass was built in 1959 during a time when highways were being built, and it was expanded to accommodate more cars, which had little regard to the impacts of the people and the neighborhoods that it surrounded," said Mayor Jennifer Macksey on Friday. "It was named again and again over the last 30 years by Mass MoCA in their master plan and in the city in their vision 2030 plan ... as a barrier to connectivity."
The Reconnecting Communities grant was awarded a year ago and Macksey said a request for qualifications for will be available April 24.
She was joined in celebrating the grant at the Berkshire Innovation Center's office at Mass MoCA by museum Director Kristy Edmunds, state Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver, District 1 Director Francesca Hemming and Joi Singh, Massachusetts administrator for the Federal Highway Administration.
The speakers also thanked the efforts of the state's U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey, U.S. Rep. Richie Neal, Gov. Maura Healey and state Sen Paul Mark and state Rep. John Barrett III, both of whom were in attendance. 
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