REGION 16 — Due to the support of Prospect voters, the 2014-15 Region 16 school budget passed on the first try at a referendum Tuesday.
Voters in the district, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, approved the $39.7 million spending plan by a vote of 493 to 441.
“It’s amazing because a lot of hard work went into the budget,” said Board of Education Chair Donna Cullen about the budget passing on the first try.
The board originally moved the budget to a paper ballot vote at a district meeting. However, the referendum was forced last week through petitions.
The budget is an increase of $1,247,618 or 3.24 percent over current spending in the district. The largest increases in the budget are $538,882 in staff wages, $267,552 in debt service and $338,959 in special education, according to budget documents.
The school expense is divided between Beacon Falls and Prospect based on a ratio of the average daily membership of students. Currently, the ratio is roughly 60 percent Prospect and about 40 percent Beacon Falls.
The net education expense for Beacon Falls under the budget is $10,450,312, an increase of $660,466 or 6.7 percent. The net education cost for Prospect is $16,721,945, an increase of $628,923 or 3.9 percent.
Cullen said every board member is a taxpayer. Although no one wants their taxes to go up, she said, the board has to do what’s best for students.
“We still need to do what’s in the best interest of the students, while keeping taxpayers in mind,” Cullen said.
Although the budget passed overall, it wasn’t approved in both towns. It was carried to approval by the support of Prospect voters.
The vote in Prospect was 268 yes to 160 no. The 108 vote difference was enough to offset the tally in Beacon Falls where the budget was rejected, 281 no to 225 yes.
“We are a region, I’d love when the day comes when it passes on the first try in both towns,” Cullen said. “You always want to see it pass in both towns. But, it passed.”
Cullen thanked Superintendent of Schools Tim James, Director of Finance and Business Operations Pamela Mangini and administrators in the district for their hard work in putting together the budget.
The voter turnout for the referendum overall was a little more than 9 percent. About 13 percent of the registered voters in Beacon Falls came out, while nearly 7 percent turned out in Prospect.
Marlene Wentworth was among the Prospect voters to cast a ballot Tuesday, saying it’s a civic duty
“I think everyone should vote,” Wentworth said in the Prospect firehouse. “It’s our duty. Everyone should be concerned enough to vote.”
Luke Marshall contributed to this article.