Pittsfield school board strikes deal on $54.5M budget

Thursday June 14, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- The School Committee has unanimously voted to support a $54.5 million budget compromise between the superintendent and the mayor.

In bridging a $1 million gap between the School Department’s and the city’s proposed district spending plans, Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi and Superintendent Howard "Jake" Eberwein III presented a united front to the seven-member school board Wednesday evening. The finalized plan for fiscal 2013, pending City Council approval, requires concessions on both sides, including an additional $300,000 from the city and further cuts to the operations and expenses of the Pittsfield Public Schools.

"It’s not an ideal situation for anybody," Eberwein said, "but it responds to the needs of the city."

The $54,516,701 compromise district budget comprises $53.8 million in City Council allocations -- $300,000 more than Bianchi had originally planned and $700,000 less than the School Department wanted -- and $710,000 from school choice and tuition, an increase of $150,000 from what the district had originally allotted for those line items.

Members of the School Committee agreed that the budget was not ideal, but they ultimately supported the increase of only 0.32 percent over fiscal 2012.

The district’s budget shortfall stems in large part from the loss of $1.3 million in federal stimulus funds in the coming fiscal year. To close the gap, the Pittsfield Public Schools are cutting into faculty and staff, operations and expenses.

During discussions with Bianchi this week, Eberwein restored five of the seven elementary teaching positions slated to be cut, as well as two specialists and 41Ž2 academic coach positions.

Eberwein would not yet say where the two teaching positions may be eliminated, although he indicated that Crosby Elementary was a likely candidate due to some small classes there.

The revised spending plan includes an additional $166,000 in cuts to non-personnel line items like IT maintenance and a bigger hit to custodial staffing.

Bianchi stressed to the school board on Wednesday that line item allocations can still be changed after the total budget amount is approved.

To reach Amanda Korman:
(413) 496-6243
On Twitter: @mandface

What’s next

The Pittsfield City Council will review the compromise budget agreement tonight during discussion of the mayor’s proposed $132.9 million municipal spending plan. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in City Hall.


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