The Chicopee School Finance and Budget subcommittee met on March 27 to discuss the preliminary FY25 budget.
Reminder Publishing screen capture by Tyler Garnet

CHICOPEE — The Chicopee Public Schools Finance and Budget subcommittee met on March 27 to discuss the preliminary fiscal year 2025 budget.

Chicopee School’s Director of Budget and Finance John Miarecki gave the presentation, but Superintendent Marcus Ware wanted to share a message before the budget was shared.

He said, “We have been working on the budget and like it says, is a preliminary account of where we’re at in the budget. Know that this is a budget in motion meaning that we are still doing work behind the scenes. We will have subsequent subcommittee meetings in which there will be updates.”

Miarecki explained that Gov. Maura Healey’s proposed FY25 foundation budget was recently released, allocating approximately $129 million to Chicopee Public Schools which averages to about $17,000 per pupil.

This is an increase of approximately $7 million from FY24.

He went on to provide a breakdown of the budget. In FY25, Chapter 70 is set to be increased by $5 million.

In FY24, Chapter 70 was $88.83 million and it will be $93.89 million in FY25.
According to Miarecki, the city auditor was set to provide a report of city costs by April 1 and the numbers will be presented at a future meeting.

The School Committee recently approved offering 22 School Choice seats for grades one through five, eight slots for Barry Elementary School, eight slots for Bowie Elementary School, five slots for Fairview Elementary School and four slots for Streiber Elementary School.

This will bring the total number of slots to 128.

Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Jennifer Bellville said there will be no slots for kindergarten this year because, “kindergarten is that year that you never know what you are going to get. We also found that some of our kindergartens were very overloaded.”

There are currently 103 students enrolled in School Choice at Chicopee Public Schools as of March 1, which is a decrease of 27 students from prior school year.

According to the presentation, Chicopee School Choice enrollment trends are declining with FY24 seeing 103 students joining Chicopee Schools but 244 students going to other districts.

Miarecki further discussed the cost of School Choice.

The current School Choice balance is $1.7 million with the expected revenue for FY24 to be approximately $182,000.

The FY24 budget will be using $800,000 from School Choice for the FY24 budget leaving the balance at $1.15 million.

The FY25 estimated revenue for School Choice is $550,000 which will bring the balance back to approximately $1.7 million before another $800,000 is applied to the FY25 budget.

Miarecki discussed how the money for School Choice is utilized. Each month the Chicopee Public Schools receives payments from School Choice.

Miarecki added, “That’s still going to leave us with $900,000 left in that account so basically, we’re in a situation that we’re in a year lag with that. We’re basically using last year’s money to pay to use School Choice this year. Many districts in the commonwealth do this for School Choice which they have to do for circuit breaker.”

Miarecki and Ware both expressed they are not concerned with these School Choice numbers.

Ware said, “The perfect storm that we are trying to prevent from happening is as we noticed that our enrollment has declined over the last five to 10 years and some of that has been due to School Choice. One thing I explain to the team all the time is we need to have our processes in place, and we are following so we can have an accurate account in terms of receiving and sending in terms of [School Choice students].”

Ware added that Chicopee Public Schools are also taking a deeper look at their circuit breaker reimbursement money.

The Commonwealth Special Education Reimbursement Program provides financial assistance to public schools districts to offset the costs of delivering high-cost special education services to students.

Ware said, “We’re in the middle of an audit to actually review to see if we’re getting of revenue from that reimbursement because right now, we don’t believe we are.”

The presentation showed that the current circuit breaker balance is approximately $1.3 million with an expected revenue to be about $492,000.

After taking $730,000 from circuit breaker budget and moving it to the FY24 budget, the estimated FY25 revenue will be $984,000.

That will leave $2.1 million for the estimated revenue and using $984,000 for the overall FY25 budget.

Ware also added that this budget will be presented to the full School Committee soon with a more in-depth look at capital projects as well as the additions and/or subtractions of positions.

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