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, June 2, 2009

School boards mull more cuts

Tuesday, June 02, 2009 - Springfield Repubican


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.


Anonymous said...

Shame on the library! If we can close a school, we can close a library to cut those extra costs!

Caren Rotello said...

I cannot understand why a town the size of Amherst needs 3 libraries. How much cost savings would be achieved by closing the branch libraries? Providing better services at a single central library seems much smarter than providing poorer services while maintaining 3 sites.

Alison Donta-Venman said...

When I was on the FCCC, Bonnie Isman listed "closing branch library(ies)" as a possibility if there were budget cuts but we never got any information on how much that would actually save. Reading the papers and following the Town Meeting lists, it doesn't appear as if the library trustees are considering any branch closures as part of their current budget process. Personally, I would at least like to see how much money that would potentially save, even if they decide not to close one or more of the branches.

Anonymous said...

We heard about revenue raising measures from the Library Trustee candidates during the campaign.

Not so much since the campaign.

So what happened?

Ed said...

One thing you all need to remember: even though Amherst has a higher property evaluation than Northampton, Amherst receives a MUCH higher state aid allocation because the UMass students drop the per-capita income way down to the level of Holyoke & Florida.

So when Amherst drives all the UMass students out, in addition to the unemployment and the rest, there will be a much lower cherrysheet and things will be far worse....

Anonymous said...

Obviously, we are not sufficiently grateful to the University for all it does for us.

Rick said...

"Amherst receives a MUCH higher state aid allocation because the UMass students drop the per-capita income way down to the level of Holyoke & Florida."

What is the source of that info? Can you point us to a reference?

Anonymous said...

I agree that it is extravagant to have three libraries.

Anonymous said...

There is a lot of extragavant entities in Amherst....never in my life have I struggled so desperately to keep up with Joneses for the sake of my child. When her friends went horseback riding and ice skating I begged borrowed and stole iceskates, and horseriding gear so she could go, but I never thought that would trickle over into her education...and no matter what anyone says different it happened and is happening every day still.
So for a family like mine to hear that Amherst would rather keep three libraries up and running at the expense of kids educations or keep a golf course smooth and green or even plant --what was it 23 thousand?! daffodils that now are nothing more than brown, dried-up eyesores I can only wonder who decides what to prioritize in this town and what a mixed up crew!

Anonymous said...

I could also do without that golf course. Couldn't we sell it?