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Tech budget up 5.4%, cuts art program

5% rise in town assessments

TURNERS FALLS — The Franklin County Technical School Committee Wednesday night approved a preliminary budget up $518,917, with an uncharacteristic 5.4 percent increase to the sum requested from member towns, and went on to cut the art program to make room for two new classrooms. Business Manager Russ Kaubris said budget drivers included a $130,000 or 20 percent increase in transportation costs without a corresponding increase in state reimbursement, the addition of two new teachers, new financial software, and room and board for a team arriving in December for a reaccreditation. The district has averaged just over 1 percent increases to assessments in past years, according to school materials. This year, towns saw a 2.5 percent increase on average.

The budget process included cuts totalling almost $1.1 million to the requests put forward by department heads, and use of nearly all non member town tuition revenues from the current fiscal year toward the next. The committee voted unanimously to accept the preliminary budget figure of $10,159,000.

With no one in the audience, the move to cut art did not raise the usual outcry. A vote to cut the art program was not listed on the agenda, raised instead during the regularly scheduled report of the curriculum subcommittee.

Subcommittee chairman Gerald Levine said his committee was recommending a change in the academic schedule from 8 periods with some paired for long periods to six periods of uniform duration, with the hiring of a science teacher and a history teacher and the elimination of the art program.

Principal Richard Martin said the two new instructors are necessary to accommodate the new schedule, preferred by teachers, and the requirements of the new Common Core State Standards without increasing class sizes.

The art program included a single full-time position. Martin said the art room is large enough to split into two classrooms.

Committee member Christopher Joseph objected to a vote without an agenda item or other warning to parents.

Superintendent James Laverty said subcommittees and all instructors were aware.

“This has been totally transparent within the building,” Laverty said. Martin said all department heads were in favor of the schedule change.

Committee member Donald Sluter said he wasn’t comfortable that parents weren’t present but the committee has voted to cut programs in the past over objections. “It’s going to ruin everybody’s life and everybody overstates what they want to say, and then we feel like crap,” Sluter said. Sluter said he didn’t want the angst.

“I think as School Committee members it’s our job to put up with angst,” Joseph said. Joseph’s motion to table the discussion was defeated by approximately 75 percent of the committee. The motion to accept the schedule change and art cut passed by nearly the same margin, with several abstentions.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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