With a new mayor, city council, and school committee, there's already a learning curve in Pittsfield as leaders rush to learn the ropes. And as our Brandon Walker reports, they'll have their work cut out for them as they map out a school budget that comes with some pressing concerns.
To view our videos, you need to
install Adobe Flash 9 or above. Install now.
Then come back here and refresh the page.
PITTSFIELD, MASS. -- The chairman of Pittsfield's School Committee describes a potential $3.7 million budget deficit as the heart of the matter. Perhaps, a stronger metaphor is the calm before the storm.
"This year, to basically provide a level service, we're looking at needing about $86 million," said Al Barbalunga, chairman, Pittsfield School Committee.
And that's simply re-calculating 2012's costs and carbon copying that budget onto upcoming fiscal year 2013.
Though, if only it were that easy.
"Currently, as of today, we're projecting a $3.7 million deficit, which is not a good thing," Barbalunga said.
Not a good thing because that's usually where districts start proposing cuts. But where to cut, considering 87 percent of the district's budget is devoted to salaries, is the big puzzler.
"So at the end of the day when you only have 13 percent to play with, that is not a salary, it doesn't give you a lot of leeway," Barbalunga said.
Still, Barbalunga says he, and most of the school committee, consider layoffs their last priority. So, now, at least, here's what they're thinking: put off a plan to purchase new school buses, and do away with a Juvenile Resource center-- run by the sheriff.
Combined, they would save one million dollars. But remember, they'd need to cut, at most, $3.7 million. Then, "we'd need to see what their expectations are regarding raises etcetera."
They being The United Educators of Pittsfield. The Union about 600 strong. Contract talks resume this week.
"Depending on where that contract goes may have a direct impact on perspective layoffs. unfortunately," Barbalunga said.
The overall deficit could drop, depending on money from the state.
Barbalunga said he'll have a clearer picture once he sees Mayor Bianchi's budget proposal for next year.