Mohawk Trail School Committee sends $21.4M budget to towns

  • Mohawk Trail Regional School. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 2/27/2020 9:53:45 PM

BUCKLAND — The Mohawk Trail Regional School District School Committee has approved a fiscal year 2021 budget of $21.4 million, a 3.29 percent increase over this year’s budget. Now, it will head to each of the district’s member towns for a vote at their individual Annual Town Meetings this spring.

This week, the committee voted before several of the district’s staff and about a half-dozen residents, after offering them one last chance to speak, but no one took the opportunity. It held a public hearing the week before where people offered their opinions.

School Committee Chair Martha Thurber said the proposed budget means a 6.24 percent increase for member towns, or a total increase of $721,489, which will be shared depending on each town’s assessment.

What everyone has been able to agree on during this year’s budget process is that the district and its member towns cannot sustain these types of increases every year.

While the budget the School Committee has sent to member towns does not cut wood shop at the high school or the musical instrument program at the elementary schools as the original version did, it does eliminate the equivalent of almost 12 full-time positions, which include a full-time nurse who is retiring and won’t be replaced and a psychologist who has asked to go from full- to part-time.

Thurber said the committee did not take the long, arduous task lightly. She said some of the primary drivers of budget increases include benefits and insurance for current and retired employees, out-of-district costs, some operational costs, transportation costs, instructional costs established through union contracts, and upgrades to technology for all students.

“We want to provide the highest quality education to all students in our district,” Thurber said. “Our schools are doing a good job providing hands-on and innovative programs like work studies, service-learning projects and robotics, to name a few.”

Thurber said beyond the cuts already reflected in the proposed budget, any other cuts “beyond this could get painful really quickly.” She said the district doesn’t want to make it so that people start leaving, because that would only cause further problems in years to come.

Committee members agreed it is unfortunate that member towns — Ashfield, Buckland, Charlemont, Colrain, Hawley, Heath and Shelburne — have to take on such an increase because towns are stretched to the limit and have many things to worry about, including police, public safety, roads and more, along with schools.

School Committee member Jason Cusimano of Shelburne said Chapter 70 general state aid to West County schools has stayed nearly flat over the past decade or more, with only a 0.5 percent increase each year. Next year, the district expects that Chapter 70 and Chapter 71 state-funded transportation reimbursements will remain the same, with a total increase of 0.6 percent, up $36,330 from this year.

Thurber said budget funding comes from several sources: $12.4 million or 57.71 percent from town assessments; more than $629 million or 28.29 percent from Chapter 70; $1.6 million or 7.63 percent from the district’s revolving funds; $700,000 or 3.26 percent from Chapter 71; $360,000 or 1.67 percent from Rowe for tuition; and $309,804 or 1.44 percent from other funding sources.

Reach Anita Fritz at
413-772-0261, ext. 269 or afritz@recorder.com.


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