Adams-Cheshire Regional budget expected to climb more than $500K to maintain services

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CHESHIRE — Notable increases to the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District budget will be necessary just to maintain its current services, according to district officials.

Interim Superintendent Robert Putnam laid out the administration's budget assumptions on Monday as it begins to craft the upcoming fiscal 2018 budget, with increases already expected due to increases in salaries, health insurance and the creation of programs mandated by the state.

"There are no positions that can be cut without eliminating programs or reducing services to students given the current configuration of schools," Putnam told the School Committee at its regular meeting on Monday.

The expected increases to the budget, which was $19 million last year, are expected to total at least $370,000, not including maintenance and other building work expected to total $155,000.

Despite the projected increases, Putnam sees no more places to trim after several years of steep cuts that have left the average class size above 20 students and an increased burden on special education teachers and specialists. The district, he added, is already missing commonly found positions such as a full-time school psychologist, facilities director, technology director and curriculum director.

Putnam had said earlier in the meeting that the administration has already begun to weigh the impacts of closing one of either C.T. Plunkett Elementary School or Cheshire Elementary. The district also could increase the percentage of the student body that attends Hoosac Valley Middle and High School in an attempt to better utilize space.

The reasons for the projected increases are varied.

Just based on contractual step increases, salaries are expected to increase by $127,000. The district is currently in negotiations with six bargaining units, so that figure could change. And though the final rates won't be determined until Jan. 23, the district estimates that its employees' health insurance costs will rise by about $113,000.

The school system also is legally obligated to add two new programs at the middle school — an Autism Program and an Exceptional Program — that are expected to cost an additional $130,000 to implement.

Capital needs at the elementary schools persist, including replacements for the lifts at both buildings that will total more than $100,000.

Reach staff writer Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376.

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