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Lack of state aid could signal HWRSD job cuts

Date: 3/13/2014

By Chris Maza

WILBRAHAM – The Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School Committe voted to recommend a budget that cuts nine full-time teaching positions and eight educational support staff jobs in response to what Superintendent M. Martin O’Shea and Assistant Superintendent for Business Beth Regulbuto called inadequate state funding.

The $43.8 million budget represents a 3.09 percent increase from FY14, toward which the state is projected to offer the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional Scholl District (HWRSD) an increase in Chapter 70 funding of less than one percent. The district also anticipates regional transportation costs will be reimbursed at 58 percent.

“It is still early in the budget season. We are developing the budget based on projections and assumptions that could change once the state’s budget is finalized, once collective bargaining agreements are reached and once final revenue and costs are fully known,” O’Shea said. “We face significant fiscal challenges, but we remain committed to advocating for the needs of children in the district and developing a budget that supports the district’s commitment to excellence.”

Wilbraham’s assessment for FY15 will increase approximately 5.1 percent to $22,398,562, including $1.5 million in debt service for the new Minnechaug Regional High School building. Hampden’s assessment of $7.4 million is a 3.74 percent increase. It includes $507,043 in debt service.

O’Shea told the School Committee during its deliberations after the formal presentation of the budget that staffing decisions still have to be made.

“There are still plenty of decisions in front of us in terms of how we staff our buildings,” he said. “Though the budgets are set and the assessments are set, we will have more to present to the committee in terms of reductions and potential allocations.”

O’Shea said the cuts are necessary because the state’s aid is not keeping up with its net school spending requirements – the minimum spending expectation for the district handed down by the state, excluding debt exclusion, transportation and other expenses like school lunches. This year’s total funding requirement for HWRSD is $31.8 million. The district is estimated to receive $11.4 million in Chapter 70 funding, an increase of $81,300.

Regional transportation reimbursement is expected to be lower than the previous fiscal year for the second consecutive year at $1,370,438, a dip of more than $150,000.

Also among the major concerns facing the district and the School Committee is the implementation of the Common Core State Standards.

In a letter sent to state legislators in January, the School Committee criticized the pace at which the additional expectations and mandates were being handed down and the cost associated with them, estimating that the district has spent approximately $1 million to implement the changes necessary to keep up with the demands.