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Pittsfield Schools Assign Placeholder for $200K Budget Cut

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The school district found a $200,000 cost savings in computer replacements to accommodate the City Council's budget cut.

The School Committee approved an $82,685,277 revised school budget on Wednesday with savings that are "essentially a placeholder." Assistant Superintendent for Business and Finance Kristen Behnke explained that the amount allotted for hiring may exceed salary totals and could go toward the reduction.

The budget for instructional computer replacements is now $100,000.

"As we bring those staff on board, what we'd like to do is take a look at those. It's possible that we may find some savings in that area and if that happens that would be a way that we could keep any reductions away from the classroom because we would not need to make further reductions of (full-time equivalents) but we would get the savings from the salary line items," she said.

"I really won't have a better idea of that until probably sometime in October but until that happens, I'm suggesting that we put this in as a placeholder."

She said the district has done a good job at judicious use of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds this spring to have Chromebooks back in middle school classrooms. This was done last year in the elementary schools and replacements will be available for high schoolers.

Concern has risen about the high damage and replacement rates for the computers and it was decided that middle schoolers will no longer take them home.

"This is certainly not something we can make a permanent change to," Behnke said, explaining that the line item has been $300,000 for over a decade, and more than $900,000 was spent on it in fiscal year 2023.

She believes that the district will be safe until the end of the year but if savings aren't realized in the salary lines they will look at other areas.

"We thought it was incredibly important that we declare near immediately that we will not be making any more staffing reductions after the motion passed," Superintendent Joseph Curtis said.

"As you know, our staff get very nervous when they hear about further reductions and might avail themselves of other opportunities in our county, which they are plentiful, so we wanted to declare that immediately. We thought this was certainly a viable solution coupled with the decision that we did make not to send home Chromebooks to middle schools anymore."

At the preliminary approval of the city's $216 FY25 budget, the council cut the school budget by $200,000 following what a councilor described as "unprofessional" comments from the committee.

Curtis assured the committee that it would not cut additional staff and members agreed that they need better collaboration with the council.

William Garrity said his first budget season on the panel was an interesting one. He does not want this to become a trend and hopes it is a "one-time thing."

"I think my thought is I don't want to do this again next year and so I think working with the City Council to ensure that we don't have to do this," said the first-term committee member.

"Because this is probably, in my view, not the best fiscal practice for us to do but I think it's the right way to go if we want to ensure that our classrooms are not impacted by this cut."

Tags: fiscal 2025,   Pittsfield Public Schools,   

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PIttsfield 16s Fall in Babe Ruth Regional Final Sports
AUGUSTA, Maine -- The Norwalk, Conn., Babe Ruth 16-year-old All-Stars Tuesday beat Pittsfield, 2-0, in the championship game of the New England Regional.
It marked the second shutout loss to the Connecticut State Champions in three days for Pittsfield. But it was a very different game this time around.
On Sunday, Norwalk beat Pittsfield, 10-0, in six innings to wrap up pool play.
That forced Pittsfield to win two straight games to get a rematch in the finals, and it did so, blanking Lyndon, Vt., on Monday and edging Eastern Mass Champion Lynn on Tuesday morning.
But in the title game, Norwalk pitcher Jaxon Ermo held Pittsfield to four hits and allowed two walks while striking out six in a complete-game shutout win.
For Pittsfield, Connor Paronto and Sam Glockner split time on the mound, striking out three.
But Norwalk generated 10 hits and scored a run in the second and a run in the sixth to give Ermo the offensive support he needed.
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