CHESHIRE — The Hoosac Valley Regional School District is poised to lay off 20 classroom educators before the new school year begins by September.
The district's School Committee, representing Adams and Cheshire, has adopted a $20.1 million budget for fiscal 2021. Approval of the budget plan, which was filed last month, came during a virtual meeting on March 23.
"The budget passed unanimously with no changes in the numbers that were presented on March 9," schools Superintendent Aaron Dean told The Eagle this week. "This obviously still means we will be reducing staffing numbers for the next school year."
The nearly level-funded spending plan covers a $480,000 shortfall by letting go 18 paraprofessionals, spread out among the high, middle and elementary school grades. When Dean unveiled the proposed budget a month ago, he said the paraprofessional cutbacks are due to fewer special education students, especially at the middle and high school levels.
Additional staff reductions included a high school teacher and physical education teacher, a full-time custodian position (through attrition) and a part-time custodian. Also, two special education coordinators will be replaced by an associate director of special ed.
The towns of Cheshire and Adams will vote during annual town meetings in June on funding their share of the budget. Cheshire taxpayers will consider a $2.8 million assessment, up 4.6 percent from the current fiscal year that ends June 30. Adams would be assessed $5.9 million — a 2.2 percent hike.
The rest of the budget revenue comes from state aid and other sources.
Despite status quo spending, the towns are paying more, because the district is reducing its reliance on surplus money, known as excess and deficiency funds, to balance the budget. Dean has said the district can only afford to use $300,000 in unspent money, compared with the $647,000 applied in fiscal 2020.
District officials say a $139,000 increase in out-of-district placement for special education students, scheduled contract increases, and a net deficit of students opting to attend schools outside the district under the school choice program are factors requiring the savings achieved through the staff cuts.
Currently, the district is in negotiations with its teachers, paraprofessionals, custodians and secretaries, nearly 200 union employees, whose contracts expire at the end of August.
Dick Lindsay can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.