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School budget to be presented on April 10

Date: 4/4/2012

April 4, 2012

By Debbie Gardner

AGAWAM — The public will get its first opportunity to view the 2012-2013 School Department budget during Superintendent William Sapelli's presentation to the School Committee on April 10.

The meeting, which will take place in the auditorium of the Roberta G. Doering School on Main Street, begins at 7 p.m.

Reminder Publications reached Sapelli late last week, as he was putting the finishing touches on the budget's numbers. He said members of the School Committee's Budget Subcommittee — and a few School Committee members who had attended subcommittee meetings — were aware of what this year's proposed budget contained, but he was reluctant to release details prior to the April 10 meeting.

He indicated he felt it "wouldn't be fair" for committee members to learn about the budget, details in the newspaper prior to his official presentation.

Last year's school budgeting cycle elicited debate and outcry from parents, town residents, school administrators and School Committee members.

The department began the 2011-12 budget cycle with a proposed $34 million budget — a 0.8 percent increase over the previous year's spending. However that proposed budget included the reduction of 31.8 school department positions, including 13 vacancies created by retirements and positions that that were not going to be filled. That budget also included the first-ever proposed fee structure for high school athletics, band and extra-curricular activities, and an increase in student parking rates.

Both the staff reductions and the proposed fees prompted school administrators, teachers and parents to voice comments and make suggestions on how to better allocate funds at multiple School Committee meetings.

Prior to final City Council approval of the 2011-12 School Department budget, City Councilor Gina Letellier proposed and the council accepted by a vote of 11-0 — a one-time appropriation of $250,000 from the town's reserve funds to restore some of the teaching positions. The appropriation, which became the Supplemental School Department Budget, passed by a vote of 7-2 on Aug. 1, 2011.

In September 2011, Mayor Richard Cohen suggested the town use a one-time windfall of $97,000 in supplemental state aid to eliminate student athletic and club fees instituted to help budget the 2011-12-school budget, and reduce the student-parking fee back to $40.

The School Committee accepted the second Supplemental School Budget, which was approved by the City Council by a vote of 8-2-1 on Sept 19, 2011.

The first public hearing on the proposed 2012-13 School Department budget is scheduled to take place at Doering School at 7 p.m. on April 24.

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