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The North Adams School Committee approves spending 5.6 percent more next year. Busing and staff costs are big factors

Students in front of Brayton Elementary School

The North Adams School Committee on Tuesday approved spending $18.8 million to educate students in city schools, including Brayton Elementary School, next year — an increase of about 5.6 percent.

NORTH ADAMS — The city school district plans to spend 5.56 percent more than it did last year, costs that will be covered by an expected bump in state aid, school officials said.

The School Committee approved its $18.8 million budget for the coming fiscal year at a meeting on Tuesday night.

What’s behind the increase

Costs for busing are set to increase by 9.6 percent, said Nancy Rauscher, director of school finance and operations. And Drury High School is adding a special education teacher, according to Superintendent Barbara Malkas.

In addition, there are pay increases factored in for some administrators, who are seeing bumps amid contract reviews, and increases for staff who have finished contract negotiations, are currently negotiating, or expect to start negotiations, Malkas said at the School Committee meeting last month.

There’s also an increase in the substitute teacher and staff budget. In the current school year, $180,600 is budgeted; in the coming fiscal year it’s slated to be $270,000. In part that’s because late last year, the School Committee voted to raise pay for substitute teachers, from $80 per day to $115 per day to be more competitive with other districts.

The pandemic also contributes to the substitute budget bump, Malkas said, because there is more need for substitutes when staff test positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms.

“There are times were telling people they can’t come to work,” she said. “That has caused us to have some higher level of need for substitutes.”

Adding a music teacher

One change from the initial proposed budget presented last month: restoring a music teacher position. There will be a full-time instrumental music teacher spread over all three elementary schools, a recently added change.

How will it cover the increase?

Chapter 70 funding, the major way the state funds schools, is expected to increase by about a million dollars, or 7.73 percent, according to Rauscher.

“The increase from Chapter 70 is actually greater than the amount we’re requiring here,” she said Tuesday night. That funding will be enough to cover the $988,713 increase in the budget.

What’s next

The City Council Finance Committee is scheduled to take up the School Committee budget during a meeting at 5:30 p.m. May 26 in the City Council chambers at City Hall.

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6272.

Reporter

Greta Jochem, a Report for America Corps member, joined the Eagle in 2021. Previously, she was a reporter at the Daily Hampshire Gazette. She is also a member of the investigations team.

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