Franklin County

State officials discuss budget strategies with Pioneer Valley Regional School Committee

NORTHFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - State education officials came to Northfield to help the Pioneer Valley Regional School District solve their $1 million budget shortfall Thursday.

Teachers and residents discussed how the school district put themselves in such a situation and what the state can do to correct the budget crisis. 

“We're hoping tonight we will find solutions to the problems we've been having,” one school official told 22News.

State education officials said nearly 25 percent of the deficit was from the school lunch program, and they blamed another 25 percent on overspending.

"I'm concerned about the taxes of course because its money and we're sort of on a fixed income but I've also lost trust and to me, that's the biggest problem," said Arleen Kilpatrick, a Northfield resident.

A $1.3 million budget deficit has community members frustrated with the Pioneer Valley Regional School District. Teachers were eager to find out who was responsible.

“It greatly impacts our community and our educational process and our children, and there's a lot of accountability that we are not sure about,” said Aimee Brown, a Pioneer Valley Regional School teacher.

School Superintendent Ruth Miller blamed the deficit on the rising costs for school lunch and bus transportation, combined with lower enrollment. The school district laid off three teachers this week. 

The school district has considered closing two elementary schools as a way to resolve the budget deficit. Teachers and community members are hoping the state can save their schools. 

“I'm interested to hear what the state has for ideas I’m open to them because I want to save our school,” said Karen Browning, Pioneer Valley Regional School teacher.

The school committee said they don't anticipate the need to close the Warwick Community School or the Pearl Rhodes Elementary School in Leyden, but they may need to cut extra-curricular activities at the Pioneer Valley Regional School.

"I have two sons that already went through the Pioneer District and the district did very well for them and I want the same for her but I feel like the quality of education is at risk with all of these budget concerns," said Emily Koester, a parent. 

State education officials recommended legislation that would allow the district to borrow money from the state.


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