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Proposed FY14 school budget cuts 10 positions


March 21, 2013
By Chris Maza

chrism@thereminder.com

WILBRAHAM — The Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District (HWRSD) is facing a grim budget scenario for fiscal year 2014 (FY14).

HWRSD's proposed FY14 budget of $42.5 million represents a 2.58 percent increase, however, Superintendent M. Martin O'Shea said that the budget will be "below level services" and "significant reductions" will be made.

"In broad terms, we have identified reductions in teaching and support staff," he said.

These staffing reductions are in addition to budget-related decreases that were made as part of the FY10 budget.

According to O'Shea's budget presentation, which was delivered on March 12, 10 full-time positions will have to be eliminated in FY14. Three of those positions would be eliminated in response to enrollment, which is expected to drop by 68 students in the next year.

With the cuts, class sizes would exceed 25 students per classroom in core academic subjects.

An additional 12 paraprofessional and three instructional and administrative support positions would also be cut.

"Prior to the town meetings in Wilbraham and Hampden we will further define the cuts," O'Shea said.

This district would also be forced to reduce its professional development spending by $56,000.

"The support of the two towns and a strong commitment of Excess and Deficiency funds by the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School Committee could not overcome declining revenues and increasing costs. The reductions were unavoidable," O'Shea said.

Wilbraham's proposed assessment would be $21.7 million, a 3.76 percent increase, while Hampden would contribute $7.2 million, a 2 percent increase.

An additional $600,000 from the Excess and Deficiency fund would be used, as well as $100,000 from the Contingency Reserve fund.

The cuts will be made despite the fact that HWRSD has one of the lowest per-pupil expenditure rates in the area. According to O'Shea, the district spends $12,170 per pupil per year. By contrast, the Massachusetts state average is $13,658.

The district has made efforts to augment revenues by increasing school choice, and fees including fees for student activities, parking, facility rentals and athletics. Those increases would yield approximately $60,000 in additional revenue for the district.

HWRSD has also limited costs associated with special education by keeping programming, thereby avoiding out-of-district tuition and has cut its transportation costs.

O'Shea also explained in his presentation that the district has negotiated $867,000 in givebacks with its staff from FY10 through FY12.

Those efforts, however, could not offset rising costs and the reduction in local and federal aid.

Transportation reimbursement for the state is expected to drop from 59 percent to 55 percent, a difference of $96,542. Circuit Breaker reimbursement is anticipated to drop dramatically from 70 percent to 55 percent, a decrease of more than $100,000. An additional $70,000 is expected to be lost after a 6 percent cut to federal grants.

In addition to the cuts, HWRSD is looking at increases to contributions to the Hampden County and Group Insurance Commission retirement accounts, as well as a 6 percent increase in health insurance costs, representing an extra $309,000.

"We will continue to pursue opportunities for additional savings and efficiencies that do not effect teaching and learning, however, the task will be challenging," O'Shea said.

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