My Goal in Blogging

I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Amherst preparing for worst

Springfield Republican article
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
By DIANE LEDERMAN

AMHERST - Unless there's some kind of money magic between now and Thursday, the Finance Committee will likely have to recommend that Town Meeting approve "a worst case" scenario fiscal 2010 budget, bearing nearly $4 million in cuts from a town-wide, level-services budget of $66.6 million.

With reductions in state aid, it looks as if the committee has no choice but to vote on the worse-case budget, said Brian D. Morton, chairman of the Finance Committee. He called it a "a sickening vote." The committee is slated to meet Thursday night in Town Hall at 7 p.m.

While the Statehouse voted to use $205 million from a sales tax increase for unrestricted local aid, the Senate last week restored only $35 million in local aid. Finance Director/Treasurer John P. Musante said the difference is huge for the town. The House budget restored $2 million for Amherst. The Senate version of the budget would restore just $257,000.

The Senate did approve a local option for municipalities to tax restaurant meals and motel rooms. But even if Town Meeting voted to adopt the local tax, it could take months for the town to be able to put in play, Morton said.

The town could, however, use reserves to cover some of that, Morton said.

The Finance Committee does not want to use reserves to fill a structural deficit but could recommend the use to cover high costs that would be addressed in future years such as the closing of the Marks Meadow Elementary School which the School Committee agreed to do last week.

There are initial moving costs that would cut the savings.

The Finance Committee has told school officials it would allow the use of reserves for upcoming fiscal year with the school closing, which eventually is expected to save more than $600,000.

Morton said the Finance Committee is expected to discuss using about $1.2 million in reserves toward the $3.8 million cut town-wide. The rest would have to come from drastic cuts, Morton said. He said there is no proposal to ask voters for a Proposition 2½ override this year. That could come next year.

"This is the year for cutting and restructuring," Musante said.

Musante said there's an 83 percent reduction in tax support for the Amherst Leisure Services and Supplemental Education.

The budget includes three fewer positions in the Police Department with the town looking for grant funding to cover those salaries instead.

Select Board members have also said they would not propose restoring money for the closing of the War Memorial Pool this summer among the many cuts in services and programs.

Town Meeting will begin deliberating on the budget June 15.

13 comments:

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, but by all means lets continue to subsidize the expensive game of golf.

Rick said...

I agree with Larry on golf being a ridiculous thing for the town to subsidize – even in good times. It may be a “small” amount but that doesn’t matter. It’s probably equivalent to a teacher or a cop.

It would have helped if the article had talked about what specific cuts are going to happen due to the $2.6M of cuts required. The article only talks about 3 police officers – who might actually get covered by a grant anyways – and the pool. $2.6M divided by say $50k per person = 52 people cut. Who and what is getting cut besides 3 “maybe” police officer cuts? A simple list with $ attached would be nice. We don’t need to know that it was "a sickening vote" – we’d like the facts. When are newspapers going to start giving us some facts instead of telling us a story?

Catherine I know you have outlined the “worst case” school cuts somewhere on this blog. Maybe it would be worth it to list the major “worst case” (tier 3?) cuts again as a simple list?

Megan Rosa said...

So does this mean we are looking at Level 4 cuts for the schools?

Anonymous said...

Please--it would help to include the vast majority of the people these 'cuts' are going to effect by telling us just exactly what they involve. It is as though, and always has been, you are talking in codes.

Golf....too much....the town respects a golf course more than they do a school??!!

LarryK4 said...

Yes Anon they do.

But if you want to keep it in perspective (the old cost-of-one- new-Stealth-Fighter-could-build-100-new-schools routine, EXCEPT they are from completely different budget pots that are not interchangeable.)

The amount we lose annually on golf (Recreation Pot) would keep open the War Memorial Pool this summer, which serves way more AMHERST residents--many of them CHILDREN (from low-income household.)

Anonymous said...

Thank you Larry, and I beg forgiveness for my ignorance on these matters. =) Either way though I think this town has their priorities very mixed up!

Rick said...

There is a bunch of school budget stuff here:

http://www.arps.org/node/471

Two of the PDFs itemize cuts: "Possible Cuts and Adds to Regional Budget (pdf)" and "Possible Cuts and Adds to Amherst Elementary Budget (pdf)". It doesn't say what "tier" they are for.

Megan Rosa said...

I wanted to talk a little about what we will need to do in the upcoming year to help the kids in the transition to 3 schools. Mark's Meadow had our SGC meeting today(sort of- not enough people came for a quorum). Those of us who did come, talked about how we would handle next year. It is true that MM will be a sad place, especially at the end of the year. But all schools will be I bet. It may be a bit harder for MM because the whole building is closing, but all schools will be changing as we now know them.

I think, starting now, we need to come together as a town, and move away from individual schools. We need to be Amherst Elementary Families (or something like that). We are in this together and these children are going to need our support. We need to move beyond MM having to close, because we all have to face the fact that there just is not enough money to do what we would like to do with our schools. We will need to rethink how we teach things to children in the classrooms.

The biggest change will have to happen at home though. We need to positively prepare our children for this change. We need to celebrate the things we love about our schools and teach our children to look forward to all the opportunities that will come. They will end up with so many friends, we (the parents) will have a hard time keeping up with them all!!

I am not saying any of this will be easy, but times are extraordinarily tough for the economy and change will come. Let's begin now, by coming together and making the best out of a very difficult situation.

Can we plan Buddy Days at the kids new schools, after we know which kids will be at what schools? This will begin to get children comfortable in their new environment.

We should think about planning some ALL schools events where children, families and staff can interact with each other and get to know each other more.

We have had a hard time this year with the decision to close MM. It felt like it was many different programs vs MM or the entire rest of the town against MM. MM parents were villainized to a degree when they were expressing what they love about their school, and other felt that what MM parents were saying were attacks on their schools. There was a lot of misunderstanding that happened, and is still continuing. There are some people who are extremely upset by the decision to close the school. Again, we have extremely limited money coming in and we need to make choices in the best interest of all the children in the schools now and those to come. None of this is easy. Emotions are flying. People will need that time to accept this decision. In the meantime, we need to keep the focus on the kids directly! They will need our strength while facing so much change. They will need us to support them, listen to their fears and encourage them that they will be ok. We need to make sure that none of these children fall threw the cracks in this transition.

So please. Let's start now by coming together and make a solid plan that will benefit all these children.

Abbie said...

Meg,

wonderful posting. Much thanks and I hope lots of people will think those are great ideas.

Anonymous said...

I hope this means that Megan Rosa will consider running again for the School Committee.

Rich Morse

Anonymous said...

megan
i voted for you....love your posting and hope you will run again

Marcy Sala said...

Megan,
I too hope that you will consider running again for School Committee. Your openness to change, sincere desire to realize the best possible outcome in the face of challenging circumstances, and wisdom (reflected in the ideas you are putting forth about how to go about doing so) is what we need more of in this community. Thank You.

Anonymous said...

great job megan...i voted for you before and would again...you are very sincere and listen to all points...