Regional School Committee Begins Planning For FY26 Budget


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Report on the Meeting of the Budget Subcommittee of the Regional School Committee, July 3, 2024

This meeting was conducted virtually and was recorded.

Sarah Marshall (Amherst), Sarabess Kenney (Pelham), and Tilman Wolf (Leverett)

Because of the upheaval over the FY2025 Regional School Budget, the Amherst-Pelham Regional School Committee (RSC) formed a budget subcommittee to get an early start on the FY2026 budget, which is projected to be even more dire than the FY2025, due to the ending of federal COVID relief money. The RSC has also formed a sustainability subcommittee to investigate other possible sources of income.

The budget subcommittee consists of RSC members Sarah Marshall, Sarabess Kenney, and Tilman Wolf. Marshall was selected as chair. She included a memo outlining the challenges and goals for the committee with the agenda. The memo acknowledges that the responsibility for developing the budget lies with the new superintendent, E. Xiomara Herman, but that the subcommittee wants to keep her apprised of the financial situations of the four towns.

Wolf suggested building the budget from what the schools system needs, in terms of courses and services, as opposed to starting with the previous year’s budget and cutting money from there to come to the amount allotted to the schools by the towns. However, Kenney thought the RSC should defer to the educators for what are the essential services and best practices. 

All members of the subcommittee agreed that the regional school system needs a district improvement plan to set out its goals and determine how the proposed budget will meet its priorities and, as Wolf stated, β€œTo make sure that any cuts we have to make are the right ones.” He said he was not convinced that was the case for the FY25 budget. Members  also said it was important to consider how budget decisions will affect staff. 

Kenney said she wants the district to develop a long-term plan. For instance, she said, if there were plans to move the middle school students to the high school because of decreasing enrollment, that would affect staffing and whether or not the district would repair the middle school roof. 

Marshall said that she has started to collect budgets from other school systems to observe how they justify the decisions they make. She will share those budgets with the other committee members. She also suggested that the four towns meet monthly to discuss the budget beginning in August or September. This would give ample time for public input, she said, so there is not a β€œbig explosion in March when the draft budget is revealed.”

Kenney, who is chair of the RSC, will meet with Herman and arrange a meeting of the committee in July. The subcommittee can report on its goals at that meeting. In describing the work ahead, Wolf said, β€œIt will be hard and not fun.”

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