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Higher school costs drive Deerfield’s $479,000 deficit

As the town enters the budget-crunching season, it already foresees a $479,000 structural deficit.

Most of that deficit — $451,349 — would come from school requests.

“We would create a structural deficit if we don’t reduce the budgets to meet revenue,” Town Administrator Bernie Kubiak said Monday.

Though the town could dip into surplus to cover the expenses this year, it would only push the long-term “structural” problem off until next year, Kubiak said.

“We’d just be postponing a reduction in town services or an override,” Kubiak said.

The Deerfield Elementary School Committee is requesting a 3.3 percent increase over the current year, which amounts to an additional $134,167. The proposed elementary budget is $4,194,859 compared to the current $4,060,692. The Committee will hold a budget hearing and tentative vote on Wednesday.

On top of that, the Frontier Regional School Committee is requesting 11.3 percent more, or $317,182.

With the most students, Deerfield typically shoulders the biggest share of the Frontier spending. The amount Deerfield would contribute to the Frontier budget would rise $317,182, or 11.28 percent. This year, the town paid $2,813,086 compared to next school year’s proposed $3,130,268.

The entire proposed Frontier budget amounts to $9,847,977 for next year. The budget increased by $440,114, or 4.84 percent, from the current year.

A public hearing on the Frontier budget is scheduled for March 12 at 6 p.m. at the school.

Franklin County Technical School, on the other hand, is requesting 0.2 percent or $477 less than the current year.

The local school’s budget increases hit the town at the same time it anticipates less in state aid revenue.

“I think more complicated discussions are coming up,” Selectman Elizabeth Clarke said. “The schools are tough. There are some things they are required to do by law but the state doesn’t fund it. Some of the budget isn’t in the school’s control. That said, we’re not getting a big revenue increase. Everyone needs to look at what we can tighten up a bit.” Finance Committee member William Cummings said the committee has asked a number of departments to review their budgets and requests.

“We’re trying to not spend more money than we have,” he said.

Deerfield Elementary School Committee Chairman Kenneth Cuddeback said the committee will review the proposed budget and consider the town officials’ concerns.

“We heard what they had to say. The school department will present us with some options,” Cuddeback said.

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