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Central Berkshire Regional Eyes 3% Budget Increase
By Sabrina Damms, iBerkshires Staff
02:00PM / Monday, February 13, 2023
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DALTON, Mass. — The Central Berkshire Regional School District is looking at a $1 million budget increase for fiscal 2024. 
The School Committee on Thursday gave initial approval to an operating budget of $30,078,694 that is up 3.42 percent, or $994,646, from this year's $29,084,048.
The approved tentative capital budget, as recommended by the finance subcommittee, is  $2,110,239. This is down $51,354 over this year, or about 2.4 percent.
Together, they total about a 3 percent increase over this year.
The district's projected revenue sources amount to $30,078,694, with assessments from the seven towns contributing 59.09 percent, or $17,772,221.
The second largest contributor is Chapter 70 state education aid, which makes up 30.76 percent, or $9,251,488. 
The district should also receive $1,555,102 in transportation funds, $135,000 for Medicaid, $40,000 in miscellaneous and interest income revenue, and $75,000 in charter school reimbursements. The committee voted to commit $1,249,883 of the district's Excess & Deficiency funds to the FY24 budget. 
Dalton, as the largest of the seven communities in the district, is responsible for more than half the operating budget, or 61.72 percent, base on enrollment. Its assessment is projected at $9.1 million, up about $220,738, or 2.48 percent over this year. Its portion of the capital budget is expected to decrease by $22,124 to $1,269,442.
In fact, only Becket and Windsor can expect an increase in their capital assessments to total $265,567 and $87,747, respectively.
The Dalton Select Board and Finance Committee expect to discuss the school budget at Monday's Select Board meeting. 
Other projected operating budget assessments are Becket at $2,675,439, up $154,788; Cummington at $703,278, up $40,320; Hinsdale at $2,680,540, up $111,971; the town of Washington at $768,974, up $7,515; and Windsor at $880,899, up $46,205.
Reasons for the rise in costs include a salary and benefits budget projected to increase $347,000, including insurance premiums. Officials had prepared for a higher jump in premiums but the numbers are coming in at 1 percent, plus a 2 percent in anticipation of new employees. 
The contractual salary salary budget will be $19,372,026 in FY24. It includes an extra $30,000 for a new career coordinator position at the high school. This position has been grant funded the past two years and administrators would like to keep it on as a fully funded post.
The committee voted to approve retirees benefits in the amount of $2,103,808. This is a 7.5 percent increase from the previous year with figures provided by the Berkshire County Retirement System.
The district is also proposing technology upgrades that will bring that line item to $568,381 from $452,765. This will cover the servers and cameras as well as Open Architects, the new districtwide educational software. It also includes software reallocated from the individual school lines.
The costs for the district's fiber connections has also increased with its new three-year contract. 
"It wasn't too much of an increase but with this increase, we are doubling our bandwidth in the schools," Director of Finance and Operations Greg Boino said. 
The pupil transportation budget is projected to increase approximately 3 percent in the second year of the three-year contract. This increase includes transportation costs for special education.
The special education budget is projected to increase by by 6.38 percent to $4,652,888, because of transportation costs. 
The Business, Finance, and Human resource budget is projected to increase 74 percent, from $382,788 to $666,070. This increase is due to the principal and payment on the new Wahconah Regional High School.
The principal and interest payment is approximately $268,000. This item will move into capital budget once the project project is audited by the Massachusetts School Building Authority. The overall budget for this line item is approximately $340,000. 
The property and liability insurance line item is anticipating a 10 percent increase; this will likely change when the correct figures become available. The Medical Health line item is projected to increase 10.11 percent to a total of $375,659. Some school nurses are moving to a new step and the cost of nursing supplies has increased.
The districtwide budget is projected to be $2,618,444, 3.20 percent higher than this year's $2,537,254. The School Committee will increase to $86,394 from $86,103; the superintendent budget will be up 0.65 percent, from $419,802 to $422,529; and school leadership budget is projected to decrease by 9.39 percent to $700,062. 
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