Budget Coordinating Group this morning
The budget season for Amherst and affiliated towns now starts to gear up, even though the Governor's budget will probably be a month late since this is an "election year".
This morning the Budget Coordinating Group, made up of members of our Public Schools, Library and Select Board, met for the first time since January.
First order of business was to elect co-Chairs. Finance Director Sandy Pooler said the usual practice was to elect the Chairs of the Finance Committee and Select Board, but since SB Chair Aaron Hayden was Missing In Action they elected rookie SB member Andy Steinberg and FinCom Chair Kay Moran.
Although Steinberg was recently chair of the Finance Committee, so perhaps a bit of an echo chamber in the making.
Sandy Pooler said he was feeling "pretty good" about the budget process on the town side: No cuts, employee salary budgets are settled at a rate the town can afford, health insurance will be manageable, and although no additions are expected it would be nice to make some additions, "particularly police."
Library Director Sharon Sharry extolled the benefits of "inter-library loans" which allows her to keep down the "acquisition budget" to state minimum standards, although the Jones Library still circulates more material than Springfield, the third largest city in Massachusetts.
Amherst Public Schools Finance Director Sean Mangano told the advisory group he thought the 2.2% increase allocated to the public schools "should be adequate", although he expressed concerns as to whether this took into consideration the Charter/Choice reimbursements, which Pooler confirmed it did not.
The Regional Schools lose a ton of kids (75) to Charter Schools -- particularly the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School -- and every one costs the equivalent of the high average cost per child of Amherst education, just over $18,000 (vs state average of about $14,000).
Whereas the students who come to Amherst via School Choice only generate $5,000 in revenues from the sending town.
Mangano told the BCG that in the immediate future things are only going to get worse as Smith Vocational is expanding its offerings and the Chinese Charter School is also physically expanding and adding grades 10-12.