CHESHIRE -- The Adams-Cheshire Regional School District's latest fiscal 2014 budget proposal introduces $400,000 in personnel cuts, representing nine positions and the "blood, sweat and tears" of the administration, officials said at a meeting this week.
"This time, staffing was involved," District Treasurer David Hinkell said. "We had no other place to cut."
It's the third proposal from ACRSD early this budget season and first to come in below the Proposition 2 1/2 levy limits of Adams and Cheshire.
School officials plan to leave the decision up to the towns. They'll provide three options, each detailing increasing cuts, and this third and newest proposal represents the most yet.
"It's a dangerously low budget going forward," said Superintendent Kristen Gordon at the Wednesday meeting. "We're bare bones in every area."
The new numbers represent 19 and 3.4 percent increases over last year in the towns respective assessments for totals of $4,715,484 and $2,305,224, up $751,387 and $76,513. The total budget proposal is $18,161,141, up 0.6 percent.
The assessments include each town's debt exclusion payments on the Hoosac Valley Middle & High School renovation, and a $400,000 roof repair for C.T. Plunkett Elementary School. Strictly educational expenditures represent 5.3 and 1.6 percent of the respective increases.
The prior budget, rejected by finance committee representatives from the towns, had recommended
Such positions were not included in the new proposal. These items were eliminated with or before the newest nine position cuts being proposed, enabled through attrition and layoffs. All accounts were cut to the lowest possible figure before staffing was targeted, officials said.
"It's a tough balance between providing for the education of our students and being fiscally responsible to the communities," Superintendent Kristen Gordon said.
Some particular budgetary woes were named at the meeting.
These included a total decrease in local revenues of $287,000, the expiration of one-time fixes and grants in last year's budget to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, increased legacy costs and special needs students.
Further, enrollment is down. Officials detailed a drop of 500 students since the mid-2000s from 1,900 to roughly 1,400. The decline amounts to several million dollars in per-pupil revenue.
Looking out five years, the financial picture doesn't get any brighter, officials said.
"It doesn't look like our budget situation is going to get any easier next year or the year after or the year after that, so we need to get together with the communities and come up with some realistic long-term solutions," Gordon said. " ... The hard truth is that there is a new fiscal reality that cannot be ignored."
The district wants to push several initiatives that might provide a boost over time.
Gordon said meetings with local officials are in the works regarding funding structures -- an example of one district complaint is a measure that requires it to foot the $70,000 annual bill of one local high-needs student.
The superintendent also wants to establish a more effective marketing plan, new five-year and strategic plans, and offer more courses and new English and math programs for elementary school students.
More ACRSD budget meetings are scheduled throughout the rest of the month, and the School Committee will take its vote on its fiscal 2014 proposal after a public hearing scheduled on March 25.
To reach Phil Demers, email