Adams-Cheshire School Committee OKs budget that cuts 12.5 positions

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CHESHIRE — The Adams-Cheshire Regional School District's School Committee has approved a fiscal 2017 budget that will make deep staffing cuts in order to rein in spending.

The $18.99 million spending plan, which will be passed onto the towns of Adams and Cheshire for final approval, represents a 0.58 percent decrease from the current budget. It's the first time in 10 years the district's reliance on town funding will decrease in more than a decade.

"It is a devastating budget," said Superintendent Kristen Gordon. "I can't stand here as the educational leader of the district and say that I support this budget; having said that, I know that the towns are in a difficult position."

The final budget was unveiled Monday after what Chairman Paul Butler said was a "very difficult budget process," including meetings with town officials.

The budget would cut the equivalent of 12.5 full time positions, including six teachers.

"This budget brings us 12.5 steps backward from where we wanted to go," Gordon said.

Three administrative positions created in the previous year's budget — a technology director, a curriculum director, and an elementary coordinator — would be eliminated under the new plan. Those employees would return to their previous jobs as teachers, bumping out the most recently hired teachers, according to Business Administrator David Hinkell.

Vice Chairwoman Darlene Rodowicz acknowledged the committee had campaigned to add the administrative positions last year, resulting in approval of a proposition 2 ½ override in Cheshire.

"We felt our priority was to protect as many classroom teachers as possible, which led us to taking out positions that quite honestly we fought really hard for last year," Rodowicz said. "When we're faced with cutting teachers and cutting support staff, we were basically forced back into that position."

The cuts also would include the elimination of the assistant business administrator position, a building secretary, and 1.5 paraprofessional positions. Reductions to athletic programs would be determined by the school committee.

In total, the staff cuts result in a savings of more than $500,000.

The budget anticipates only a slight growth of 0.3 percent in unrestricted Chapter 70 state aid, which makes up a little more than half of the overall revenue.

The plan calls for the town of Adams to pay $4.79 million to the district, a decrease of $80,838. Cheshire would face an assessment of $2.43 million, an increase of $55,299 over the current year.

The discrepancy in assessments — Adams has decreased while Cheshire's has decreased — is due to the complex funding agreement between the two towns and the state's formula for determining their ability to raise funds.

Still, the School Committee has noted that the district continues to spend less per pupil than the state average, and by a wide margin. Hinkell said Thursday that he only expects that gap to grow.

Officials also point out the spending plan continues to neglect the district's major infrastructure needs. Among those listed are significant repairs to the boiler room walls, ceiling, and roof at C.T. Plunkett Elementary.

The budget vote was divided into three pieces: the first on the overall budget, the second on the Adams assessment, the third on the Cheshire Assessment, and the fourth on the usage of $350,000 in reserves to balance the budget.

The first three votes were passed by a margin of 5 to 1, with member Stephen Vigna the lone no vote. The fourth vote passed unanimously.

Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376.


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