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Greenfield Public Schools

Mayor wants 3% schools increase

Superintendent has asked for 4.7% hike to cover new hires

GREENFIELD — Mayor William Martin’s budget proposal for Greenfield schools will likely be about $295,000 less than the one suggested by Superintendent Susan Hollins last month.

While Hollins’ proposal called for an overall 4.7 percent increase to bring the budget up to $17.3 million, Martin’s would increase it by 2.9 percent to just over $17 million.

Martin acknowledged that the budget needs to see at least a 2 percent hike (just over $483,000) to account for a growing enrollment in the schools. He also said that it makes sense to additionally include increases from new contracts with busing companies ($115,000) and paraprofessionals ($37,000).

But beyond that, the schools will need to make do with what they have, said Martin, who is also the chairman of the School Committee. There are other Greenfield departments that are in need of extra dollars this year, he said.

Hollins said Friday that she hopes the town will, for a second straight year, authorize pre-payments of expensive special education tuition costs. The school department has to pay these expenses throughout the year when students need to leave Greenfield to receive specialized services elsewhere.

“If we again prepay some of these tuitions, (Business Manager Elizabeth Gilman) and I are committed, as always, to making adjustments so as to meet student needs and also have financial stability with the mayor’s budget plan,” she said.

The School Committee is holding a public budget hearing this coming Wednesday, at 7 p.m., during a regularly scheduled meeting. It will also need to soon vote on the budget. Martin is hoping Hollins and Gilman present a budget that shows his preferred level of increase.

But even if the school board approved the 4.7 percent increase, the budget goes from the school department right back to Martin’s desk. As mayor, he takes the various department budget proposals and creates his own proposal to present to Town Council.

According to state law, Town Council can increase the school budget if it wants, but would have to pull the money from other departments.

Hollins has told the School Committee that her proposed increases add an equivalent of eight full-time employees to support a growing student population.

While high school grades are averaging under 100 students and grades 5 through 8 have about 115 students each, the school department’s lower grades have an average size of 156. This enrollment bulge, which Hollins calls the “Green Wave,” will hit fifth grade next year, she told the Greenfield School Committee last month.

In addition to the $17 million the school department would spend from its general fund, it would also use about $2.4 million in revolving funds and just over $2.7 million in grants.

The school department is required to publicly post a budget summary. To view it, go to www.gpsk12.org and click the “Proposed Budget 2014-2015” link on the right side of the website.

You can reach Chris Shores at: cshores@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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