Tuesday, June 02, 2009 - Springfield Repubican
By DIANE LEDERMAN
AMHERST - The Amherst School Committee and Amherst Regional School Committee will hold a joint meeting tonight to discuss new cuts to their budgets.
The Finance Committee last week approved a townwide budget that further reduces department spending to make up for more reductions in state aid. On June 15 Town Meeting will begin deliberating on the $62.2 million recommended budget, down from a $66.6 million level-services budget.
In approving a budget that does not meet the spending sought by the Jones Library trustees, the Finance Committee could be putting the library in jeopardy of losing state library funding, said Library Director Bonnie J. Isman.
Andrew M. Churchill, School Committee chairman and a member of the regional school committee, said elementary schools could be looking at another $232,000 in cuts, with the region needing to trim an additional $149,000 over previous cuts.
Churchill said the general theme is "sharing the pain."
"Nobody wants to be where we are," he said. "I'm particularly concerned we will be decimating the music program" in the elementary schools.
The School Committee last month voted to close Marks Meadow Elementary School in a year as part of a money-saving restructuring. The Finance Committee has indicated it would allow the schools to use some reserves to help in anticipation of that closing.
Churchill said officials are preparing more budget information for the committees to consider tonight.
There are other things under consideration besides cuts, including whether employees will forgo 3.5 percent negotiated cost of living increases for the next fiscal year and possible changes in health care, he said.
Isman, meanwhile, presented the Finance Committee with a budget that was .7 percent lower than a level services budget but one that would satisfy state requirements to qualify for state aid to libraries. She said however the Finance Committee cut the budget by an additional 1.5 percent or $34,704 in the town contribution.
That means the library system would not meet state requirements and could lose $70,000 from the state and its accreditation. Losing its accreditation would mean no interlibrary borrowing privileges, she said. It also means reducing library hours at a time when more are needing library services.
She said, however, the Finance Committee believes the library could apply for a waiver from the state because all the town departments are being cut equally. But if the schools don't have to cut as much she feels the library aid is still at risk.
The school meetings begin at 7 in the Amherst Regional High School.
The Jones Library Trustees are meeting tonight at the library at 7 with financial advisers to look at the library's endowment.
Isman said the Board of Trustees, meanwhile, will likely take the $2,121,288 budget that meets state library guidelines to Town Meeting for consideration despite the Finance Committee vote for a lower budget.
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.