SHEFFIELD -- The Southern Berkshire Regional School District's teachers' union and the district have reached an agreement that could free up to $90,000 that could prevent the loss of staffing positions in the proposed fiscal 2015 budget.
The union voted to accept a furlough day next year, which could save up to $30,000, while the district is searching for funding in the range of $60,000.
The School Committee will vote on the budget at tonight's 6:30 p.m. meeting at the Mount Everett Regional High School library. The adjustment is not expected to increase the assessment to towns.
"Any staff member that has contact with kids is a potential mentor or teacher that kids can go to when they are having a tough time," union President Andrew Rapport said. "In those nine faces, there are some very powerful faces." The union on Friday voted 58-11 to accept a furlough day, which won't affect three retiring teachers, according to Rapport. The furlough day was also embraced by school site and district administrators who are not part of the union.
"Any staff member that has contact with kids is a potential mentor or teacher that kids can go to when they are having a tough time," union President Andrew Rapport said.
Nine positions have been recommended for elimination in the current proposed SBRSD budget, with more than half not planning to retire. These employees include two part-time teachers who teach a daily single class, an aide, a district technology support employee, and a Mount Everett Regional teacher.
The cuts were OK'd by schoolsite administrators as not affecting the district's educational core. The district's enrollment has decreased from 776 students last year to about 762 this year.
Superintendent David Hastings will need to approve what positions are spared, although the union will provide a recommendation, which isn't expected until after the School Committee vote.
Prior to tonight's meeting, the district's finance subcommittee will further discuss possible areas for savings. Finance Chairman Vito Valentini said the cost savings could come from line-item adjustments, re-evaluation of income sources related to conservative estimates on choice-in students, and possibly reserves.
"This is a real sacrifice from our teachers," Valentini said. "We didn't suddenly find a new pool of money, but we're changing up things here and there."
"We want to take this money and use it toward finding the best educationally sound positions to keep," Rapport said.
The district has about 100 professionals in the teacher bargaining unit, Rapport said. The teachers work 180 days a year -- along with four professional development days. The teachers agreed not to be paid for a professional development day.
"We've had wonderful cooperation from Andrew and union for the last year," Hastings said. "The partnership has been tremendous."
The budget proposes a 1.6 percent increase, likely leaving the total fiscal 2015 budget at $14.86 million.
The budget includes an overall increase to towns of 2.79 percent. The towns facing the highest increased assessment would be New Marlborough at 4.3 percent and Sheffield at 3.5 percent, while Egremont and Alford would see an increase of less than 1.75 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively. The assessment in Monterey would decrease 0.7 percent.
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