Paul working for you.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Pioneer struggles with overspent budgets, school lunch deficit

Pioneer struggles with overspent budgets, school lunch deficit

Pioneer Valley Regional School is located at 97 F. Sumner Turner Drive in Northfield. RECORDER STAFF/SHELBY ASHLINE 

Recorder Staff

Tuesday, June 20, 2017
NORTHFIELD — Though Pioneer Valley Regional School District’s school lunch deficit has been climbing for years, it’s not the only problem the district is facing. An overspent general fund is also hanging over the administrators’ heads.

According to documents produced by Superintendent Ruth Miller for the School Committee, the general fund deficit at the end of last fiscal year was $86,517.

Miller said the news came as a bit of a surprise while talking to Terry Williams of the Department of Revenue in April about the district’s school lunch fund deficit, which was $210,544 at the end of last fiscal year and has continued to grow.

“He said ‘Well, Ruth, it’s not just the food account that’s in deficit,’” Miller said. Williams sent Miller several years of reports outlining leftover money or deficits in the budget, with dismal figures.

The documents showed how Pioneer’s general fund budget, plagued by as many as eight overspent accounts a year, went from having $136,461 left over after fiscal year 2012, to $68,347 after FY13 and to a mere $296 after FY14. Beginning in FY15, the general fund budget went into the red for the first time, leaving the district with a deficit of $165,711.

Miller took over as superintendent from Dayle Doiron before the 2015-2016 school year, making the FY16 budget the first she was involved in arranging. With a positive general fund budget after last fiscal year, the deficit was reduced to $86,517.

“In that first year, we were able to cut the deficit down, but we’re still in significant trouble from a financial perspective,” Miller explained during a School Committee meeting last month.

“We reduced all deficits except for food lunch,” she later told The Recorder. “We’re actually in a better spot, even though it doesn’t feel that way,”

The fund for capital projects was also overspent by $85,000 in FY15, but Miller said it’s since been paid off.

Miller hopes at the end of the current fiscal year to have enough left in the general fund to pay off the $86,517. With the four towns having already approved next year’s budget, money has not been set aside for the debts, though Miller hopes the budget subcommittee will meet to discuss how to possibly reallocate funds.

Meanwhile, Assistant Superintendent Gail Healy, who is also the district’s food service director, is working to reconfigure the school lunch system to make it more financially sustainable. However, her ideas thus far — which have involved cooking all meals at Pioneer and transporting them to the four elementary schools — have faced criticism from residents during School Committee meetings, so no plan has been enacted.

“At the end of FY17, we’re still going to have that school lunch deficit,” Miller said during last month’s School Committee meeting. “The (Department of Revenue) says to reallocate funds, but we don’t have any … One of the reasons we have to lay teachers off is we don’t have a handle on the money.”

Getting a handle on the budget, Miller continued, will require “a longer conversation and a bigger plan.”

Reach Shelby Ashline at:
413-772-0261, ext. 257



  1. But we don’t have any!
    Will this be our problem soon with the E+D fund use of over 400k to make the NRSD budget work.

  2. Like I said David as you told me watch the budget. Good idea would be to have an audit of her time at the school. Somehow it all seems fishy to us still. The two years she comes and we are in debt up to our asses. Their is no way a lunch program ( especially ours) would be in this debt. For one if you don't have money, you don't eat and two low income on snap is paid by the state. Either someone is really bad at balancing books or someone has made some extra cash.
    Unlike what she has done in the past she is outta here, and we will rebuild.