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Amherst regional school budget would eliminate 12.6 positions

  • <br/><br/>KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Maria Geryk, Amherst's interim superintendent of schools, meets with about 25 peopl



    KEVIN GUTTING
    Maria Geryk, Amherst's interim superintendent of schools, meets with about 25 peopl Purchase photo reprints »

  • FILE PHOTO<br/>Amherst Superintendent of Schools Maria Geryk has proposed a budget for next year that would result in the loss of the equivalent of 12.6 full-time positions in the regional schools.

    FILE PHOTO
    Amherst Superintendent of Schools Maria Geryk has proposed a budget for next year that would result in the loss of the equivalent of 12.6 full-time positions in the regional schools. Purchase photo reprints »

  • <br/><br/>KEVIN GUTTING<br/>Maria Geryk, Amherst's interim superintendent of schools, meets with about 25 peopl
  • FILE PHOTO<br/>Amherst Superintendent of Schools Maria Geryk has proposed a budget for next year that would result in the loss of the equivalent of 12.6 full-time positions in the regional schools.

The equivalent of 12.6 full-time positions will be cut from the Amherst Regional Schools to help bridge a budget gap of over $1 million under Superintendent Maria Geryk’s proposed budget for the 2013-2014 school year.

The cuts, which could affect 21 separate positions, have been spread across academics and electives in the Amherst Regional High School, but in the middle school they will only affect physical education and technology.

Geryk said she will not know whether layoffs and reductions to staff hours will be necessary until early April. She said she hopes to achieve the reductions through natural attrition and leaves of absence. The district is required to notify teachers of layoffs and schedule changes by April 15.

Under the proposed budget, funding for the regional schools would be 2.1 percent higher than it is in the current school year, increasing by slightly over $600,000 from $28,527,558 to $29,130,815. The percentage increase to the assessments for the member towns would be between 3 and 8 percent.

The Amherst assessment would be $14,158,830, a 3 percent increase from this year’s assessment. The Pelham assessment would be $1,259,488, a 4.44 percent increase. The Shuesbury assessment would be $1,483,380, a 4.07 percent increase. Leverett would see the largest shift in its assessment, which would increase by 7.84 percent to $1,398,899.

In addition to the cuts, the proposal also calls for the addition of a Steps-to-Success liaison, to work with income-eligible families, and additional funding for summer scheduling support, which would cost slightly over $57,000 and $12,000, respectively.

In order to make up the budget shortfall, Geryk also expects to use approximately $100,000 in reserve funds, and prepay $117,000 in retirement incentives and $100,000 in summer tuition for special needs students from a surplus that the school system has for the current year. Geryk said that the reserves would remain at a healthy level despite her plan. In total, the staff cuts are expected to save over $650,000.

Geryk said that the cuts are in line with changes in enrollment — which has declined by almost 500 students in the past 10 years — and would not result in larger class sizes or a reduction in offerings in the high school.

The middle school would see the elimination of technology as an elective course, and the use of technology would instead be integrated into the curriculum of other subjects.

The middle school would also see the reduction in the amount of time spent on physical education, and the loss of a physical education teacher — which is expected to save the region slightly over $57,000. The decline in physical education was a source of concern for several members of the committee.

Committee member Michael DeChiara said that the reduction in physical education time was “a little surprising/concerning” in light of the school committee’s prior discussions of student health.

“We’re just setting the kids up for being not physical and not incorporating that stuff,” he said. “It just is troubling that we’re reducing it even further. I would say there’s not very much to begin with in middle school.”

The high school would see the bulk of the reductions, losing the equivalent of 3 1/3 academic teaching positions, and slightly over 1½ elective teaching positions. The South East Campus, which serves special needs students, would also see the reduction of one teaching position.

The budget also calls for several administrative cuts — the equivalent of 3.2 positions, and a part-time bus driver. Geryk emphasized that, like teachers, the administrative staff for the region has seen reductions over the last five years.

She said that while the number of students has declined, the reporting and tracking demands that state and federal requirements place on administrators have increased over the last decade.

Geryk said that the reductions are aimed at creating a budget that is sustainable in the long term.

“We don’t want to be in a position where every year we are faced with cuts,” said Geryk.

“We want to be able to be much more strategic and, over time, create a system that supports what we value, supports our students, and allows us to be fiscally responsible,” she said.

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