GREAT BARRINGTON -- Following an extended -- and at times confusing -- discussion, the Berkshire Hills Regional School District approved a total of $200,000 in cuts to the fiscal 2015 budget on Thursday night.
The committee learned Friday that they will have to reconvene on Tuesday for a brief meeting to move the budget using the correct terminology, according to District business manager Sharon Harrison. The amounts will not change, but the wording of the motion was incorrect.
Next year’s budget will be $23.361 million, down the aforementioned $200,000. That was approved by a count of 8-2 with member Fred Clarke and school committee chairman Steve Bannon dissenting.
Both Bannon and Clark opined that cuts of about $400,000 were needed to make the budget palatable to the district’s member towns of Great Barrington, Stockbridge and West Stockbridge.
The recalculated budget means Great Barrington’s assessment is now $12,053,039, which now represents an increase of 4.65 percent; Stockbridge’s assessment is now $2,541,359, a 2.08 percent hike and the assessment to West Stockbridge is $2,575,401, a hike of 13.16 percent.
The school committee arrived at the $200,000 figure by series of cuts, individually moved and approved.
They were: $26,700, removing a half-time elementary school foreign language teacher; a $38,405 reduction in the district’s electricity account and the use of $100,000 in the district’s excess and deficiency account.
That got the reductions to $165,105. The committee, after a roundabout discussion, agreed to charge district superintendent Peter Dillon with finding the rest of the money in the budget to cut to get those reductions to an even $200,000.
Dillon said he would consult with department heads and return in two weeks with the final cuts.
Dillon was charged by the committee last week with creating scenarios to reduce the original $23.5 million budget by $50,000, $100,000 and $150,000.
He did so, and on Thursday night, the committee discarded some of the suggestions and adopted others, getting the cuts to $165,000.
Eventually, as the hour grew late, the committee agreed to let Dillon generate the rest of the cuts.
Thursday night’s discussion was split roughly between actual budget reduction suggestions and individual committee members expressing their frustration with the process.
Some committee members were eager to build a budget from the ground up. In other words, give the district some guidance as to the financial parameters and then let the administration fill in the financial blanks.
Dillon was not opposed to the plan, which the committee hopes to take up for the following year’s budget.
"We may have to rethink how we do things," he said, adding that the district may have to reset its programmatic priorities.
"Well, we can’t do it this way anymore," said Bannon.
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