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Gill-Montague Regional Schools

G-M school budget proposes cutting 13 posts

Gill-Montague Regional School District Superintendent Michael Sullivan in his Crocker Avenue office. 
Recorder Chris Curtis

Gill-Montague Regional School District Superintendent Michael Sullivan in his Crocker Avenue office. Recorder Chris Curtis Purchase photo reprints »

TURNERS FALLS — A Gill-Montague Regional School District budget tailored to be affordable for the towns could eliminate 13 positions.

That was part of the scenario Superintendent Michael Sullivan presented to the Gill-Montague Regional School Committee Tuesday night, with a 2.35 percent rather than 5.85 percent increase. Sullivan said the $17,333,818 budget scenario represented a cut to meet affordable assessment estimates from the towns with the least harm to students.

But he does not recommend it.

On the block are districtwide math and literacy teacher “coaches,” a special education team leader, a half-time clerical position in the business office, a custodian, the high school Spanish and math teachers, a high school graduation counselor, one of four adjustment counselors and four paraprofessionals.

The cuts total $473,850, offset by $100,000 in anticipated unemployment expenses for a total savings of $373,850.

New positions deemed vital by the superintendent remain in the budget.

These include a full-time health teacher at the Great Falls Middle School. The middle school has not had a health teacher since the position was cut as part of an effort to present a level budget in 2010.

A lack of health education at the middle school level in local schools has been raised recently by some discussing the county heroin and prescription pill problem as a gap to be filled.

“Given the things we see in the news these days about heroin use by teenagers, it seems a really self-evident thing,” Sullivan said.

The other new positions proposed are a literacy coach to be assigned to the Montague Elementary School and a board-certified behavior analyst for the elementary schools. In total, the three positions would cost an estimated $165,000.

Changes also include shifts in the sums taken from various funds, including a $210,000 increase in the sum taken from the School Choice tuition fund and $130,000 less to be taken from the excess and deficiency fund.

Member Sandra Brown worried the cuts would not be a sustainable solution. “If we cut all these positions this year, what are we going to cut next year?” Brown asked.

Member Marjorie Levenson said she would support the cut version of the budget if it were understood the staff health insurance would be re-evaluated, saying this is a hot topic in town and she would support a petition calling for the district to re-open the policy.

There was some argument as to whether this could be done without agreement from all parties, including unions and retirees.

Chairwoman Joyce Phillips said the cut is among the smallest, historically. “We have known what it is like to bleed,” she said.

Montague’s assessment, less debt, would come to $8,145,639 and Gill’s $1,440,676. This would put Gill’s share $21,410 below the figure considered affordable by municipal officials and Montague’s $41,258 above.

Phillips said the committee is scheduled to vote a final version of the budget at its next regular meeting, March 11.

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

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