Level-service budget plan for North Adams schools caps increase at 2%

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NORTH ADAMS — The city's school district has introduced a "level-services" budget.

The $18 million spending plan for fiscal 2020, introduced to the School Committee at its Tuesday meeting, aims to maintain existing programs districtwide while capping the increase in overall spending at 2 percent.

"Within the scope of that level service budget, the administration is, however, looking at reallocating current resources to better serve the students' needs across the district," said Carrie Burnett, the district's business administrator.

The school budget is still a work in progress and is currently based on Gov. Charlie Baker's proposed state budget as the city awaits the state legislature to have its say on education funding.

"The one thing we are sure of is what has been presented by the governor, so we're working from that perspective and those are the numbers we're representing here," said Superintendent Barbara Malkas.

Mayor Thomas Bernard, who chairs the School Committee, noted the state legislature and local districts that rely on its funding are barreling toward the same budget deadline at the end of June.

"Some of these numbers aren't always settled, so we will make the best guess we can at every stage of the game," said Mayor Thomas Bernard.

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The largest increase in the North Adams district's budget, in terms of percent change, is in spending on leadership and administration. The 7 percent jump in that category is reflective of the transition from sharing a business administrator with another district to shouldering the full financial burden of paying for the full-time position.

Last year, the district had shared the services of Burnett with the North Berkshire School Union. The School Committee opted out of the shared-services agreement earlier this year and hired Burnett full time.

The district also plans to invest in technology, including Zoom, a video conferencing software that would be used especially for special education meetings. Another new program is ArchiveSocial.

"[It] allows us to archive whatever is in our public domain around social media, like Twitter and Facebook, which is going to be regulated and necessary," Burnett said.

The district's administrative offices are in the midst of being moved from privately owned offices on Main Street into City Hall, resulting in savings in the 2020 budget.

The budget calls for $265,000 from the district's school choice reserve account to offset spending. Last year, the district used $250,000 from its school choice account.

Adam Shanks can be reached at ashanks@berkshireeagle.com, at @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter, or 413-629-4517.


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