Budget, appropriation going to hearing

REGION 16 — The public will get the chance to share its opinion on the proposed 2016-17 Region 16 school budget and a supplemental appropriation at a hearing Wednesday night.

A presentation and public hearing on the spending plan and appropriation will be held Wednesday starting at 7 p.m. at Long River Middle School in Prospect.

The Region 16 Board of Education, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, last week approved a roughly $40.53 million budget to send to the hearing. The proposed budget is the same as the current budget and does not increase spending.

The net education costs for Beacon Falls and Prospect under the proposal weren’t released as of Monday. Even though the budget proposal is flat, that doesn’t necessarily mean local taxpayers will pay the same as the current budget. If other revenue sources come in under current levels, local taxpayers will have to make up the difference.

Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin originally presented a budget plan in February that was nearly $40.6 million. This proposal would have increased spending $62,500, or 0.15 percent. After a series of budget workshops, the school board settled on the flat proposal.

“I think it’s a fantastic budget. It’s a zero increase, yet there are some wonderful additions to this year’s budget that will directly correlate to improved student performance and an increase in resources for both staff and students,” Yamin said.

The spending plan includes some staff additions and reductions.

Among the additions are a part-time talented and gifted teacher at Long River Middle School, a full-time certified reading teacher at Prospect Elementary School, a full-time math instructional aide for Woodland Regional High School and three part-time library assistants.

The staff reductions include reducing a full-time French teacher and a full-time music teacher at Woodland to part-time, cutting a full-time kindergarten teacher at Laurel Ledge Elementary School, and cutting a part-time special education teacher.

The staff changes equate to an additional $30,472 in net salary.

The major budget drivers in the spending plan are increases in wages ($413,480), health benefits ($473,673), transportation ($89,871) and utilities ($99,190).

The flat budget proposal comes after school spending in the region increased an average of 2.8 percent over the past three years. It also comes on the heels of two significant budget surpluses. The 2013-14 budget finished with a roughly $1.3 million surplus, while the 2014-15 budget ended with a balance of about $1.44 million.

The school board is also seeking a supplemental appropriation of $179,982 from the 2014-15 surplus into the board’s capital non-recurring account. State law allows the board to transfer up to 1 percent of its budget into a capital non-recurring account, which can only be used for one-time capital expenses.

Of the $179,982 sought for the transfer, $150,000 is planned to be used to mill and repave the parking lot for the new district office. The new office, which is the final part of a three-part building project, is on Coer Road in Prospect where the former Algonquin School stood. The work on the parking lot isn’t included in the building project’s budget.

The remaining $29,982 will be used for one-time repairs at Woodland and Laurel Ledge, including a partition for the coaches’ room at Woodland as well as replacing ceiling and floor tiles at Laurel Ledge.

A district meeting to vote on the budget and appropriation is scheduled for May 2 at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. If a referendum is held on the budget or appropriation, or both, it will be May 3.

The Republican-American contributed to this article.