Gill-Montague School Committee OKs budget increase of 3.9%

By JULIAN MENDOZA

Staff Writer

Published: 03-16-2023 1:25 PM

MONTAGUE — The Gill-Montague Regional School District School Committee unanimously approved its $27.48 million fiscal year 2024 budget on Tuesday, with changes stemming primarily from contract negotiations and enrollment figures.

The budget is a roughly $1.05 million increase, or 3.9%, over current figures, and allows for much of the same programming now offered as Gill-Montague schools. Town assessments will account for around 49% of funding, whereas Chapter 70 state aid will provide around 28%, 14% will stem from grants and revolving accounts, and the remaining 9% will come from a combination of other sources.

Town assessments total around $13.5 million, with Gill’s share at roughly $1.68 million and Montague’s at about $11.7 million, accounting for a 3.5% decrease and a 4.2% increase over FY23 figures, respectively. The budget must now be approved by voters at Annual Town Meetings in Montague and Gill, which are projected for May 6 and May 22, respectively.

The Gill-Montague School Committee showed a detailed presentation and fielded questions during its Jan. 10 meeting before convening with members of the two selectboards and finance committees on Jan. 31. School Committee members then considered revisions to the budget on March 7 prior to their final vote on Tuesday.

Contracts for Unit A (teachers) and Unit C (paraprofessionals and support staff) expired last June, according to the budget presentation. A $378,229 potential increase is budgeted for these contracts as they are negotiated, as well as non-union staff contracts.

In terms of tuition, the district has fewer students who are “choicing out” to other districts and enrolling in charter schools, which allowed for a budget decrease of $420,190. According to the district’s data on enrollment trends, the downward trend began with a decrease in choice-out students from 216 to 179 between FY22 and FY23, as well as a decrease in charter school enrollment from 77 to 60.

“Those are all really good numbers,” Joanne Blier, Gill-Montague’s director of business and operations, told the School Committee on March 7.

This decrease, however, is largely offset by a $406,110 increase that accounts for “several new high-cost out-of-district placements” that roll over from FY23, as well as some additional anticipated out-of-district placements. These represent students seeking programming that is not offered by Gill-Montague, such as those who want to attend a vocational school.

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The finalized budget and presentation can be viewed at bit.ly/3ZRPf5z.

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

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