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Gill-Montague Regional Schools

Gill-Montague early budget figure approved by committee

TURNERS FALLS — The starting point for the Gill-Montague Regional School District budget is almost a million dollars higher than the budget for the current year.

The Gill-Montague Regional School Committee on Tuesday night voted 7-2 to accept the preliminary budget presented by the administration in the amount of $17,926,168. This is $957,800, or 5.6 percent, more than the current budget, itself a 2.4 percent increase over the previous year.

Budget drivers presented by Superintendent Michael Sullivan include three new hires: a literacy coach for the Montague Elementary School, a behavioral specialist at the elementary level and a health teacher for the middle school, a position Sullivan said is very much needed at that level. In total, the three positions would cost an estimated $165,000. Sullivan listed a further six positions as desired, but did not include them in the budget.

Cost of living and step increases included in the three year contracts begun this year are also a factor.

Preliminary local assessments less debt come to $8.5 million for Montague and $1.5 million for Gill, $445,352 and $64,204 more than the calculated affordable assessment for each, according to Sullivan.

The district’s preliminary budget numbers are typically higher than the final budget figures approved each March.

School Committee member Marjorie Levenson, who voted against the preliminary budget, objected to the order of the meeting, with public comment accepted after the vote, and to the sum proposed to be drawn from the excess and deficiency fund, $350,000, a level Levenson called unsustainable and wrong.

Others characterized the preliminary budget vote as a starting point for discussion.

The meeting was attended by members of the Gill and Montague town finance committees.

Montague Finance Committee member Michael Naughton said he wasn’t going to get too worked up over the initial number.

“Things will change, they have in the past and I don’t expect to see any different,” he said.

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

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