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Pittsfield School Committee Sees $78M Budget Proposal
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
12:08PM / Thursday, March 23, 2023
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The district is seeking a budget increase of more than 8 percent in fiscal year 2024, with a majority of the funding going to special education, career technical education, and contractual obligations.

The School Committee got a first look at the upcoming budget request on Wednesday.  The $78,310,016 ask is an 8.17 percent — or $5,911,754 — increase from FY23's budget of $72,398,262.

"Our goal continues to be to create meaningful and most importantly, sustainable change for the children of our city," Superintendent Joseph Curtis told the committee.

"Meaningful and sustainable change takes time. We are impatient because our decisions affect children's lives every day but any rush to change is reactive and typically is not embedded systematically. Changes that do not impact our systems are prone to quickly revert back to prior practice."

There will be a public hearing for the school budget at 6 p.m. on Monday at City Hall, the committee will make recommendations on April 12, and there is an expected budget adoption on April 26.

No later than June 1, there will be a joint meeting with the City Council to discuss the proposal.

Eighty-three percent of the increase, about $4.9 million, is allocated for special education instruction and support, CTE/career pathways, and contractual obligations.

This includes a $527,000 increase for CTE, a $1.3 million increase for special education, and $3 million for pay increases to the United Educators of Pittsfield, the American Federation of Teachers, the Pittsfield Educational Administrators Association, and non-bargaining staff members.

Last year, the committee passed memoranda of agreements for its bargaining units that include "substantial increases."

The proposal includes options for students transitioning from the virtual learning academy such as an expansion of the Positive Options Program at Berkshire Community College, a new high school innovation center at Pittsfield High School, and an existing online classroom at Taconic High School.

Assistant Superintendent for College and Career Readiness Tammy Gage explained that Taconic is in the process of applying for its 14th vocational program — video and performing arts.

"If that program has been accepted, this will be our fifth application in the last six years," Gage said. "And we were approved for the last four, as you know, so we do anticipate being approved pending inspections that will happen this summer."

Elementary and middle school innovation centers with blended remote or hybrid instruction are also on the table, causing an increase of $230,000.

Nearly $900,000 in additional support positions are proposed, including a district registrar, and there is a $650,000 reduction in teachers due to enrollment changes.

The governor's budget has a Chapter 70 increase of $6,592,719 and the district is requesting $680,965 under that increase.

A variety of staff members attended the meeting to provide details about budget increases in their departments.

Mayor Linda Tyer appreciated this.

"Your expertise means a lot to me when I'm thinking about how I'm going to support this budget or recommendations for reductions that I might make," she said.

"So really appreciate that you, Mr. Curtis invited your staff to be part of this process and I know we're going to have even more opportunities to do that."


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