Franklin Tech budget up 4.5%

By JULIAN MENDOZA

Staff Writer

Published: 03-16-2023 4:24 PM

TURNERS FALLS — The Franklin County Technical School Committee unanimously approved its $15 million fiscal year 2024 budget Wednesday evening, with notable changes including a 9% increase in Chapter 70 funding and a $500,000 increase in the capital stabilization fund.

The budget is a roughly $657,000 increase, or 4.5%, over fiscal year 2023’s figures. Town assessments account for around 45% of funding, Chapter 70 state aid makes up around 40% and the remaining 15% will come from a combination of other sources.

In describing Chapter 70 aid, Franklin Tech’s budget book explains the state “determines an adequate spending level for each school district” and “uses each community’s property values and residents’ incomes to determine how much of the foundation budget should be funded from local property taxes.” According to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s website, “the formula’s minimum aid provision guarantees all districts receive at least the same amount of aid in FY2024 as they did in FY2023, plus a $30 per pupil increase.” There are currently 559 students enrolled at Franklin Tech, a figure that is expected to increase to 572 next school year, according to the budget book. Therefore, the school will receive $5.96 million in Chapter 70 aid, compared to this year’s $5.47 million.

The capital stabilization budget will increase from $250,000 in FY23 to $750,000 in FY24, which will mark the first year without a payment toward a now-complete 15-year rental lease related to a structural improvement project. Business Manager Russ Kaubris said he and Superintendent Rick Martin decided to reallocate $500,000 from the lease budget into the capital stabilization fund because the school is “in the pipeline” for a Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) project that would assess the feasibility for a new school building.

“One of the first steps in an MSBA project is to do a comprehensive study for the building project, so we are putting the money aside for that,” Kaubris told the School Committee.

“FCTS is nearly 50 years old and is one of the few remaining regional vocational schools in Massachusetts without a Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) funded facility,” the budget book explains. “FCTS has been invited into the eligibility stage of the process during the 2022-23 school year and then will move into the design phase, followed by a feasibility study during the next several years.”

The School Committee and administration celebrated Franklin Tech’s solid financial standing during Wednesday’s meeting.

“We firmly believe ... that we’ve been pretty efficient in our budgets,” Kaubris said. “If you were to ask me this 20 years ago when I started that we would now be presenting budgets that are cheaper for member towns to send their students to Franklin County Tech than their regular high schools, I would say, ‘No way.’ … We’ve kind of turned the world on its head, and it’s not magic. It’s economies of scale.”

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“What I think our school has shown is the value of regionalization … to be effective in what we’re doing,” added School Committee Chair Rich Kuklewicz, who suggested Franklin Tech could be a model for other municipalities considering a regional school district.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-930-4231 or jmendoza@recorder.com.

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