Central Berkshire Regional begins review of fiscal 2014 school budget parameters


DALTON -- Central Berkshire Regional School District's fiscal 2014 budget doesn't start until July 1, but discussions about it are already under way in Dalton.

At a special Select Board meeting this week, Superintendent Bill Cameron and the school district's Business Administrator Margaret Foster had a dialogue with the Select Board members to start a line of communication for budgeting the next fiscal year.

At more than 50 percent, Dalton contributes the most of the district's operating budget, Cameron said. The district also includes the towns of Becket, Hinsdale, Peru, Washington and Windsor.

"Dalton is obviously living very close to the budget levy limit," he said. "That's major as far as a budget is concerned. There are different areas and scenarios that we may want to look at."

School budgets have seen a trend in increases since 2011, Cameron said. However, he said there are no construction projects for the fiscal year 2014 budget.

"We have an ever-increasing investment in technology in the classrooms," Cameron said. "That's a cost driver, and we're probably not the only school district that sees that. Technology becomes obsolete quickly."

Funds also have to always be set aside in case there's a large, unanticipated demand for special education, Cameron said. Not having the funds available could result in making mid-year adjustments in other departments.

Henry "Terry" Williams III, the chairman of the financial committee, referencing a spreadsheet of past years' funds, said that of the four components of a town's budget infrastructure --tax levy, state aid, local receipt estimates and available funds -- state aid has been "pretty flat" over the past few years.

Also an employee of the Department of Revenue, Williams said that the department has not been making some of its revenue targets.

"Revenue estimates for the upcoming year have to be very conservative, or it could result in cutbacks," Williams said.

An initial budget will be proposed on Jan. 10. The school district's final budget will be voted on in March.

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