Central Berkshire school district budget to increase less than 1 percent


DALTON >> Spending would increase by less than 1 percent under a proposed Central Berkshire Regional School District budget.

The tentative $26.6 million spending plan projects an increase of $245,000, or 0.93 percent, in fiscal 2017.

And district officials say projected revenue gains — primarily an excess and deficiency fund surplus of $400,000 — will cause assessments in six of seven member towns to actually decrease.

"[Washington] is seeing an increase of $16,000 [because] the Chapter 70 net minimum contribution increased," Assistant Superintendent Melissa Falkowski said recently. "The total assessment decrease is 2.04 percent, $323,000."

Superintendent Laurie Casna told the School Committee that the tentative budget represents more than a holding pattern to keep spending in check.

She said the district was able to include key spending items to further its overall goals in the tentative budget.

"[The budget is] very focused on our prioritization of digital learning, inclusive education for all learners, and curriculum alignment," Casna said. "Both vertically aligning curriculum, so things are sequential and make sense as students move through the grades, but also horizontal alignment, making sure that the instruction and the opportunities are fairly consistent for students in the grade levels despite the elementary schools they may attend."

One new position — a kindergarten-through-fifth-grade digital learning leader, a $75,000 position — represents one important piece, Casna said.

"We have made a lot of gains in our technical abilities in this district, but really being able to use the devices once they're turned on [and] working to change instruction is our next step," Casna said. "This position will bring us there."

The district will also boost English Language Learner position by $45,000 to make it full-time and deal with a small but high-need non-English-speaking student population.

Casna said other budget increases are for the purchase of Chromebooks for Craneville Elementary School, Nessacus Middle School and Wahconah Regional High School and projectors for Nessacus.

Unlike the district's fiscal 2016 budget, which cut more than 50 positions, the tentative 2017 budget eliminates nobody's job. Then-Superintendent Robert Putnam said declining enrollment had led to a district staff beyond the needs of the student body.

The tentative 2017 budget does shed several more positions, but only through non-replacement of retirees and employees who were promoted or moved to a different role. Most notably, former district Business Administrator Melissa Falkowski was promoted to assistant superintendent without having her prior position refilled, trimming down by one the CBRSD central office.

Elsewhere in the tentative budget, employee health insurance is projected to jump 8 percent, or $274,000, and retiree benefits drop by $232,000.

Contact Phil Demers at 413-496-6214.


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