CHESHIRE -- Adams-Cheshire Regional School District officials approved a "bare bones" fiscal 2015 budget Monday night, with reductions that included not filling several positions after resignations or retirements.
The $18,618,074 budget, which must now be approved by officials in both towns, was passed after School Committee members voted to reduce $469,000 from several areas to avoid a deficit.
"The committee feels very strongly they don't want to see any staff cuts at all," Superintendent Kristen Gordon said during Monday's public hearing. "But in order to get to that $469,000, there's literally nothing else in the budget to cut."
The budget still doesn't include a much-desired curriculum coordinator or full-time school adjustment counselors, Gordon noted, and doesn't address the district's class-size issues, the need for additional language teachers and other programs. In addition, reductions in maintenance spending would put some projects on the back burner.
The budget reflects a $5.26 million assessment for Adams, a 2.8 percent increase over the current year, and $2.49 million for Cheshire, a 2.4 percent increase.Chairman Paul Butler said the district faces a $300,000 increase in health insurance costs and a $200,000 increase in contractual obligations, as well as increase in heating and utilities.
"The math just doesn't add up," he said. "I don't know at what point it will turn around."
School Committee members voted 4-2 to reduce $469,000 from the previously proposed budget.
Much of that included $300,000 in the ongoing teacher contract negotiations, Gordon said, which include money set aside for raises.
"We do have some areas that we are thinking might make both parties happy to make up that amount of money," she said. "And we have to think about if that doesn't happen, we have to find that money somewhere else."
Additional reductions were made by not refilling four paraprofessional positions and one teaching position for a total cost of $103,000, using $25,000 from school choice funds, and eliminating $25,000 for maintenance and capital projects.
Gordon said she and district officials will explore different models after this year's budget discussion in order to prevent another deficit in future years.
Attendees said they would like to see greater attendance at public meetings on budget discussions.
Member Darlene Rodowicz noted the district's high dependence on Chapter 70, the major program for state aid to public schools, and said she felt the towns' contribution should increase.
"This is about our adults supporting our children and believing education is the pathway to opportunity," she said.
"You look at all the other debt structures we have in town and look at all the demographics in our town, and it's tough to tell them they need to pay another $200 in taxes when they say, ‘Gee, it was always fine when I went to school there,'" Cheshire Finance Committee member Bill Craig said.
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