CHESHIRE -- The Adams-Cheshire Regional School District will start the 2013-14 school year down eight employees due to budget constraints, officials report, and they say it's a wonder they didn't have to cut more.
The staff reduction has been realized through attrition and one layoff, district treasurer David Hinkell said in an interview Wednesday.
Six employees who've resigned -- four paraprofessionals, an elementary school music teacher and the maintenance supervisor -- will not be replaced, and neither will a retiring high school math teacher. A high school foreign language teacher is the sole position that's been eliminated.
"[The budget] is very tight," Hinkell said. "We'll get through the year but it's going to be very, very difficult. "We're down to two music teachers for 1,400 kids."
Confronting a $1.1 million shortfall while budgeting for 2014, officials said staff was the only thing left to cut. The eight-person reduction, they said at the time, amounted to roughly $400,000.
The $17,877,141 fiscal 2014 budget that was eventually passed represented hikes in Adams' and Cheshire's respective assessments by 12 and 3.4 percent.
Hinkell said the future picture isn't any brighter. Next year's budget will present even more difficulties, with enrollment still relatively low, costs higher and each town's debt exclusion payments on the Hoosac Valley Middle & High School renovation growing.
But more staff cuts can't be sustained, he said. Before the recent eight, the district lost 29 positions that were never replaced when faced with similar constraits in 2009.
Any more reductions and class sizes are likely to swell, reducing instructional quality and the district's ability to tend to its high-needs students, he said.
The problem is compounded by diminishing state aid. The district receives only half what it should in transportation reimbursements and this year its federal Title I and special education grants -- administered by the state -- lost a total of around $50,000.
Hinkell said other local districts report similar issues, making future mergers within the realm of possibility.
District Superintendent Kristen Gordon is on vacation and could not be reached for comment Wednesday.