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Greenfield Public Schools

Greenfield school board OKs 4.7% budget increase

GREENFIELD — The Greenfield School Committee has approved a budget that increases spending by 4.7 percent from last year, even with Mayor William Martin, the school board’s chairman, stating he plans to allocate a smaller amount.

Member John Lunt said that the school board should vote on whatever amount it felt was necessary to accommodate a rising enrollment. The other members agreed, voting for the $17.3 million budget. Martin abstained and Donna Gleason was absent.

Martin, as mayor, now takes various department budget proposals and creates his own overall proposal to present to Town Council. His allocation for Greenfield schools is expected to be $295,000 less than the one the school board approved Wednesday, but Superintendent Susan Hollins said that her staff will be able to work with the smaller increase if necessary.

But she implored the mayor to ask for a transfer of an additional $200,000 to $250,000 to the school department’s current budget so that her staff can pre-pay expensive special education tuition costs during the summer. The school department has to pay these expenses throughout the year when students need to leave Greenfield to receive specialized services elsewhere.

The School Committee voted 5-0 to ask the mayor to approach the Town Council with this request, just as he did last year. Martin abstained from the vote.

The budget allocates $1.4 million next year for these payments and Hollins is anticipating $600,000 in state aid. But with expected costs at $2.2 million to $2.4 million, and expenses beginning during the summer months, she is requesting that the town transfer money into this year’s budget. School staff is allowed to pay some of these costs ahead of time so that it won’t impact next year’s budget.

Hollins said that if the transfer doesn’t happen, the school department will need to scramble to find the money in next year’s budget, which she said could lead to some teacher cuts.

The budget’s proposed increases add an equivalent of 8 1/ 2 full-time employees to support a growing student population.

High school grades are averaging under 100 students and grades 5 through 8 have about 115 students each, but 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.

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

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