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46 layoffs on the line in Northfield override

Polls open noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday

NORTHFIELD — Tuesday’s Proposition 21/ 2 override vote could have serious implications for the Pioneer Valley Regional School District.

If the override passes, it would result in a tax rate increase of 79 cents per $1,000 of property value, according to Selectboard Chairman John “Jack” Spanbauer.

In May, the annual town meeting approved a $4.167 million local assessment for next year’s school budget, contingent on the override.

If the override fails, the town could still be on the hook for $126,045 more than the $3.87 million the Finance Committee and Selectboard had budgeted for Northfield’s share of the district budget.

That would leave the district $749,657 short of its requested $14.13 million budget.

That number isn’t set in stone, though.

The district is hoping to see an increase of about $300,000 in transportation reimbursement approved by the state Legislature, though the governor may adjust that amount.

Without the revenue increase, the lower budget could result in as many as 46 layoffs in the school district, or 25 percent of professional and paraprofessional staff, according to Superintendant Dayle Doiron. She said the district still has to go over the numbers to decide exactly how many layoffs it needs and in which positions, and will also try to identify cuts to discretionary parts of the budget.

Doiron does not expect to be able to trim more than $100,000 from the budget before cutting staff.

The School Committee’s Budget Subcommittee also has 30 days to recommend new local assessments if the override fails. Those new assessments would be subject to special town meeting approvals in Bernardston and Northfield.

While Leyden and Warwick voters approved their full assessments, Bernardston approved less than its assessed share. Since it takes a majority of the district’s four towns to approve a budget, all assessments could be adjusted to reflected Bernardston’s approved amount.

If the override passes, Bernardston would have to pay the full assessed amount.

If the override fails, Northfield will have to figure out how to pay for its increased share. Budgets and articles approved at Northfield’s annual town meeting were just $250 less than the levy limit, leaving little wiggle room.

Spanbauer said there are five ways the town can adjust for the increase, all of which require town meeting approval.

Town department operating budgets could be trimmed, as could capital expenditures. The town could also tap into the $788,000 in its stabilization account, or take it out of surplus “free cash” once it’s approved by the state in the fall. Finally, if state aid to the town comes in higher than expected, that would leave more money to put toward the increased school assessment.

Polls will be open from noon to 8 p.m. in Town Hall. Absentee ballots will be available from the town clerk until noon Monday for those who can not make it to the polls due to absence, disability or religious reasons.

You can reach David Rainville at: drainville@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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