Farmington River's $4.53 million school budget moves on to town meetings

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OTIS >> Health insurance, salary and tuition payment increases are fueling the proposed $110,000 spending hike for fiscal 2017 in the Farmington River Regional School District.

The district's school committee representing Otis and Sandisfield recently adopted a nearly $4.53 million operating budget, up 2.5 percent from the current $4.42 million spending plan.

The boost in the bottom line translates into an assessment of $2.4 million for Otis taxpayers, a 3.8 percent increase for the fiscal year beginning July 1, and a $1.43 million assessment for Sandisfield, or a 4.1 percent hike.

The assessments are subject to approval at the May annual town meeting in both municipalities.

The budget allows Farmington River to maintain the same level of education for the next school year, according to business manager Jane Gleason.

"We didn't add any new programs and staffing remains the same," she said.

Nevertheless, Gleason noted that employee health insurance costs to the district will rise nearly 11 percent in the new fiscal year, with scheduled teacher and staff pay raises accounting for a 2.3 percent increase in spending.

In addition, the district's total tuition payments are expected to rise by $30,000 to $1.34 million thanks, in part, to a few more students — 150 in all — heading outside the district in the fall. Since Farmington River is a pre-kindergarten through sixth grade district, the 7-12 students attend middle and high schools in neighboring school systems, the majority of whom are enrolled in the Berkshire Hills Regional School District. The tuition line item also includes students placed in special education programs.

Meanwhile, Farmington River is close to paying off its 20-year mortgage for the new elementary school the district built two decades ago. The second to the last school bond payment for fiscal 2017 totals almost $104,000, down 11 percent from fiscal 2016.

The final payment in fiscal 2018 is due in November of next year.

The loan payment will appear as a separate article on each annual town meeting warrant for Otis and Sandisfield.

In 2009, the district took advantage of lower interest rates in order to refinance the loan.

"We didn't shorten the length of the bond, just lowered the payment," Gleason said.

Contact Dick Lindsay at 413 496-6233


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