Greenfield School Dept. proposes $21.4M budget

  • HARPER 

  • ECKSTROM

  • PROIETTI

Staff Writer
Published: 2/21/2020 9:56:08 PM
Modified: 2/21/2020 9:55:54 PM

GREENFIELD — With an increase of about 11 percent over this year’s budget, the Greenfield School Department has proposed a $21.4 million fiscal year 2021 budget.

A public hearing on the proposed budget will be held Wednesday, March 4, at 6 p.m. at Greenfield Community Television (GCTV). The event, which is open to the public, will be broadcast live by GCTV.

The roughly $2.1 million increase over this year’s budget of $19.3 million is “90 percent salaries and fixed costs,” said School Department Finance Director Steve Nembirkow.

The proposed local contribution for fiscal year 2021, which is $5.2 million this year, is $6.9 million — an increase of $1.7 million.

“There are very little variable costs in the budget,” Nembirkow said. “It is what it is, so to speak.”

The proposed fiscal year 2021 budget primarily reflects a “level-service budget,” or the cost of providing the same level of services as the previous school year, according to a press release from the School Department. “More than 90 percent of the budget is allocated to salaries and fixed costs with very few discretionary costs, including contractual increases including the Unit C contract, for which the City Council was asked to rely on School Department reserves in place of the city’s contract stabilization or general stabilization account.”

According to the release, in fiscal year 2021, Greenfield is slated to receive over $387,000 more in additional state aid, according to Gov. Charlie Baker’s budget. The House and Senate versions of the budget may add more funds.

The School Department budget also contains needed positions such as those required for graduation requirements, student enrollment or special education, as well as the pilot program for an alternative high school approved by the School Committee last February, according to the School Department.

The budget was created by the School Committee Budget and Finance Subcommittee, Superintendent Jordana Harper and Nembirkow. The group began meeting in January when the subcommittee was reestablished by the School Committee.

The budget subcommittee started off by getting an understanding of what it takes to run the district, Nembirkow said. The “all-requests” budget was about $22.1 million.

“We worked with an all-requests budget, which was what was requested from departments and principals, to see what exactly the committee felt was needed to run the district,” he said. “We pared it down from there.”

School Committee Chair Amy Proietti said the process to put the budget together was an extensive one that involved meeting two to three times per week.

“It’s been a whirlwind, especially considering two of the three members of the budget subcommittee were new members of the committee. I’m proud of what we put together and I’m looking forward to engaging with the public at this point,” Proietti said. “We need to be engaged and working well as a whole. We need to continue to move the School Department forward and look at the budgets coming in the future as far as sustainability.”

In general, Proietti said, some of the aspects of the all-requests budget that were left out were new positions, aside from those that would prevent requirements from being fulfilled.

At its meeting Wednesday, School Committee Budget and Finance Subcommittee Chair Susan Eckstrom said she wanted the all-requests budget to be proposed because “it was an accurate reflection of the cost of educating children in Greenfield.”

“The number is just going to get bigger and bigger, and we’re just going to push it down the road,” Eckstrom said. “I want a conversation to happen. We all need the conversation to happen. ... We can’t hide our heads in the sand and hide from what the actual cost is. If this ($22.1 million) is what the cost is, we all as a community need to figure out how to get a larger base for this city to survive.”

Eckstrom said she was OK with being told the budget would need to be cut, but she said she wanted to have the conversation. Harper noted the all-requests budget included cuts as well.

“The principals told you ‘I’m only requesting this, I’m not requesting that and that,’” Harper said in the meeting. “Even in this year’s budget, there are always cuts. We made fewer cuts (to the all-requests budget) because you asked to hear the requests from the principals as it came from them. They made cuts as they feel appropriate.”

According to a memo sent out by Greenfield Finance Director Liz Gilman, the School Committee must vote on the budget within 14 days of the hearing, with the School Committee’s approved budget due to the mayor by March 10.

Reach Melina Bourdeau at mbourdeau@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 263.


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