NORTH ADAMS -- McCann School Committee members approved the operating budget for fiscal year 2014 with little discussion at their meeting Thursday night.
The $8.4 million budget includes an increase of approximately $355,000 from the current fiscal year, which ends June 31. Superintendent James Brosnan, who went over the budget with committee members, said there were few anomalies, mostly the result of increases in fixed-cost operational expenses, such as health insurance and retirement benefits.
One of the biggest increases in spending the district has seen over the past several years is in special education.
"We have a number of students that are requiring more and more services, and we need to provide those services," Brosnan said.
Given that the district spent $22,722 in special education services in 2012, Brosnan said $20,000 was being recommended for this coming fiscal year. Special education costs have gone up in recent years, he said, as the district has lost several grants that helped fund services.
Brosnan said there was only a modest increase in the transportation budget, an additional $13,964, bringing total projected transportation expenses to $383,964. Though the district will be transporting additional students with the towns of Cheshire and Lanesborough joining the district, the district won't need more buses. Brosnan said the administration took time to modify the pre-existing bus routes to accommodate students in the two new towns.
"Otherwise it could have cost at least $35,000 minimum to add another vehicle," Brosnan said.
An increase of $10,000 in what the school spent on Internet expenses will be a necessary to support learning and teaching initiatives. Since the school's use of technology has been expanding steadily, Brosnan said, the school simply needs more bandwidth.
"It's a requirement that we get the streams in to move the data," he said. "There's a whole lot of materials teachers are using in their labs and classrooms now."
The district saw a significant increase in two major revenue sources: approximately $400,000 from the Chapter 70 school aid program and $600,000 from the municipal minimum assessments, a calculation of how much each community contributes.
"That's attributable most significantly because of the addition of Cheshire and Lanesborough to the district," Brosnan said. "You're shifting those monies into our budget."
With no discussion, the committee voted unanimously in favor of a motion by Thomas Mahar to accept the budget as presented.
In other business, McCann's Principal Justin Kratz updated committee members about students' MCAS scores. Four students recently took a retest of the math portion of the MCAS, Kratz said, with all four students passing. This means the school's entire junior class has passed the math portion of the MCAS, a standardized test required by the state to graduate high school. Kratz added this was due in large part to the students' effort and the assistance of math teachers Jessica Tatro and Tyna Senecal.
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