Easthampton council adopts $40.3M budget that adds 5 school staff

@kate_ashworth
Published: 6/8/2017 12:21:28 AM

EASTHAMPTON — The City Council approved a $40.3 million budget Wednesday night for next fiscal year that adds five positions to the schools.

The school positions are a third-grade teacher at Center/Pepin elementary schools, a sixth-grade teacher and custodian at White Brook Middle School, and an English teacher and paraprofessional at Easthampton High School.

The district’s director of business services, Dayle Doiron, said the three teaching positions are due to enrollment increases.

In the past, the school district went through a period of budget cuts in which dozens of full- and part-time positions were cut over nearly a decade.

This year, Mayor Karen Cadieux honored the exact amount requested by the school department. The school’s $16,929,210 budget is a 2.5 percent increase from fiscal 2017, which Doiron said is an essential service budget.

The city’s overall $40,307,360 budget for fiscal 2018, which begins July 1, is up 2.49 percent from the current year.

“We’re very appreciative of the work the mayor did with us to get us to a budget that enables us to continue to grow,” Superintendent Nancy Follansbee said.

Cadieux said consolidation of offices and frugal fiscal management allowed the city to honor the school department’s request. The changes included consolidating the treasurer and tax collector’s office into one office, and combining the treasurer and tax collector positions into a single job.

Cadieux said while change is not easy, it’s necessary to grow.

“I would like to compliment the mayor for once again presenting a balanced budget that does not reduce staffing in any department,” City Councilor Daniel Rist said.

Rist is also pleased that the budget maintains staff increases approved last year.

“She has done so with careful reorganization of departments, providing cost saving while maintaining the services our city has come to expect,” Rist said. “She has done so even with the large increase of health care costs.”

The city’s health care costs rose 9.67 percent from fiscal 2017 to $4,674,729. The city uses Hampshire County Group Insurance Trust. Cadieux said city officials have done their due diligence and researched other plans, but found the Hampshire Trust is the most affordable.

“Even with this increase, it was still cheaper than GIC (Group Insurance Commission) and a better much plan,” she said. “We don’t have those high deductibles and out-of-pocket costs.”

Fire Chief David Mottor said his department has been able to reduce overtime pay from past years thanks to being nearly fully staffed following the hiring of a firefighter last year.

He said hiring the firefighter enables the department to have six firefighters for all four shifts, as mandated by a 1976 Town Meeting vote. The department hasn’t always met that mandate over the past four decades for budgetary reasons.

The department is still short a deputy fire chief, but Mottor said that doesn’t affect overtime.

The fire department’s budget is $2,000,340 which is a 2.83 percent from fiscal 2017.

A surprise on the budget was a request from the Emily Williston Library for $307,316 for fiscal 2018 — over $100,000 more than the current year. The council approved the mayor’s recommendation of $208,247, or 1.24 percent more than the current year.

Raymah Hutchinson, president of the Emily Williston Library Association, said one-third of the library’s budget is funded by the nonprofit association. She said the request served to educate the public and council about the library’s operating costs and the services it provides.

“Sixteen hundred people come to the library every week,” she said. “We check out, each week, 1,340 books, 222 CDs, 450 DVDs, 18 video games, 12 magazines, 222 Ebooks and audio books, and we provide programs free of charge.”

In recent years, the library has participated in fundraisers to raise additional money to be able to expand what it offers, Hutchinson said.

“I’m just hoping everybody will understand, when the Emily Williston Library is having a fun draiser, everyone should come and support it,” she said. “Because all that money goes right back into something you’ll need someday.”

Caitlin Ashworth can be reached at cashworth@gazettenet.com.




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