Maria Geryk, Sean Mangano, Mike Morris at last night's Finance Committee meeting
Amherst school officials gave the Finance Committee a sneak peak at their fiscal 2017 Elementary and Regional School budgets, both of which are described as "level services," and both of which require sizable cuts simply to attain that treading water status quo:
$428,897 from the elementary schools and $280,823 from the Region.
Charter Schools cost as much as employee Step/COLA and projected raises next year on Elementary budget Control Accounts
And in both cases the number one cause of budget strain comes from the competitive drain of students by Charter Schools, mainly Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School in Hadley, which is now a full service grades 1-12 enterprise.
PVCIC recently added $10 million building addition
For the Region (grades 7-12) this year that includes 90 students and at the elementary level another 86 -- all of them at the high average cost per student, where Amherst is in the top 10% statewide.
Charter School impact on Amherst elementary schools
If a student leaves Amherst via Choice it only costs us $5,000 but if they go to a Charter School or Vocational School it costs us $18,000.
And to make matters worse the state is considering lifting the cap on Charter Schools while reducing dramatically the reimbursement formula to public schools who lose students to Charters.
All in all a lose/lose proposition for an already ailing public school system once the proud flagship of education in the Happy Valley.
PVCIC recently added a $10 million addition to their nearby facility while Amherst is gambling on a two-for-one mega school that could very well be turned down by the voters because of expense, adding significant costs to Amherst's already sky high property tax burden.
School Library supporters crashed the FinCom meeting
About a half-dozen disgruntled citizens showed up to the Finance Committee meeting last night to complain about the 3 library paraprofessionals facing the budget ax, but Chair Kay Moran told them the Finance Committee has no line item authority and simply votes the bottom line provided by School Administration.
$40,000 was recently shifted from the elementary schools operating budget to capital (paid by the town) so that alone will cover half the cost of the three library paras if approved by Town Meeting.
And the town did recently renew the lousy 3.5 year "Strategic Partnership" with UMass that provided $60,000 this current year and $120,000 next year in reimbursement money for the 56 students in our expensive public schools coming from tax exempt family housing at UMass.
School Committee candidate Vince O'Connor will be filing a "citizens petition" for Town Meeting calling for greater Payment In Lieu Of Taxes from all three institutes of higher education who dominate day-to-day existence in our little "college town."
Comparison of local public schools losses to Charter Schools (Amherst second from lowest)