WILBRAHAM — At its March 21 meeting, the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School Committee voted to approve the proposed fiscal year 2025 budget as presented by Superintendent John Provost and Assistant Superintendent for Finance, Operations and Human Resources Aaron Osborne.

The proposed budget totaled $54.2 million with an increase of $1.3 million or 2.45% from the FY24 budget, Osborne stated. He explained that budget aligned with the district’s 2022-27 strategic plan and included the two appropriate costs from the plan for this year.

These costs were $43,000 for math professional development, in accordance with the objective to provide professional development in support of the pre-K curriculum, and $59,469 for ninth grade students to receive vocational training at Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative, which aligns with the goal to evaluate current vocational offerings, Osborne said.

This will be the only option for students to attend vocational training at LPVEC, as the organization will not accept 10th grade students moving forward, Provost stated, saying that he received this notification on March 21.

While students would still be able to receive vocational training at Pathfinder Regional Vocational Technical School and Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School, the cost of transporting and supporting a Hampden-Wilbraham student to attend these schools would be significantly higher, Osborne later said.

Other impacts on the budget increase included salaries, utilities and technology costs relocated from capital expenditures. This $254,000 cost is for purchasing Chromebooks, projectors and software as well as replacing staff laptops, Osborne stated. He explained that this cost was historically on the capital budget. However, the towns requested the cost be relocated to the school district’s operating budget.
The budget also included savings through items such as retirements, removal of vacant positions and changes in individuals’ retirement insurance, Osborne stated.

“We also reduced some staffing and student services,” he said. “None of these at the moment result in any employee losses of positions. We’re fairly sure that we will retain all of the employees who have jobs.”

Similarly, issues like the loss of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds and FY24’s athletics deficit have impacted the FY25 budget, although they are partially offset by increases in certain grants and other revenue sources, Osborne explained.

During the presentation, Osborne also highlighted higher costs unique to regional district schools like Hampden-Wilbraham.

“This is often a question that comes up when people compare our budgets to say municipal school districts like Longmeadow, East Longmeadow, West Springfield and compare our budget and say well, your budget’s higher. Our district as a regional district takes on a number of costs that those districts don’t bear,” Osborne said. He stated that employee health insurance, retiree health insurance and retirement contributions combined cost nearly $9 million together and that there are multiple other smaller costs as well.

With the approved preliminary budget, Hampden would be responsible for $8.8 million while Wilbraham’s assessment would be $30.2 million. The remaining costs of the budget would be supported by other funding sources, including state aid, Osborne stated.