North Adams School Committee OKs $16.74 million budget

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NORTH ADAMS — The School Committee has unanimously approved a $16.74 million budget for fiscal 2017, a 3.5 percent increase over the current plan.

Officials have described the plan as one of the healthiest in recent years.

Superintendent James Montepare told the committee at a public hearing on Tuesday the proposal does not make any substantial cuts to program or layoffs — though it does include the reduction of a few positions — and it actually adds some services to the district after years of deep slashing.

"We've managed to not compromise and also add much-needed services," he said.

This year was unlike last year or the prior year, Montepare noted, when the proposals called for sharp reductions in staffing.

The budget calls for the use of $250,000 from the district's school choice reserve account. While officials expect that account, which currently sits at about $750,000, to be replenished by the end of next year, they concede it's not an ideal way to fund the district. But the use of reserve funds will limit the impact of the school budget on the overall city budget to a 2 percent increase over last year, or about $330,000.

The amount of school choice funding utilized could decrease if the state budget, which has yet to be finalized, provides any additional aid beyond what the district is currently anticipating, according to Montepare.

While noting that the spending plan remains "meager," Mayor Richard Alcombright, who also serves as School Committee chairman, credited Montepare and Business Manager Nancy Ziter with being "extremely creative year after year" to provide funding for services.

Committee member Mark Moulton praised Montepare's efforts that, while not yet fully funded, should be the seed of additional coordination of athletics and other after-school programs. The superintendent has stated repeatedly he's concerned that programs such as a small-engine repair and sewing have fallen by the wayside.

The district also is adding a language teacher and eight full-time substitutes, two for each building.

Committee member John Hockridge asked what impact the city's redistricting — associated with the renovation of Colegrove Park Elementary School — had on the transportation budget.

Montepare said the shift did provide additional savings, allowing for more breathing room within the district's transportation contract. In the past, Montepare said, it often had to scrimp and save to provide transportation for activities such as field trips.

Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376.


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