PROSPECT — Voters approved Region 16’s 2019-20 school budget at a district meeting May 6 at which only 123 voters cast a ballot.
The roughly $40.73 million budget keeps spending at the same level as this fiscal year in the region, which is comprised of Beacon Falls and Prospect. Voters approved the budget 112 to 11 overall. Prospect voters voted 75 to 9 in favor of the budget, while the Beacon Falls vote was 37 to 2 in favor.
“I didn’t see any reason why it wouldn’t pass because we have been fiscally conservative and we’ve done a great job managing our dollars,” Board of Education Chair Robert Hiscox said.
Even though spending isn’t going up, the projected net education cost to the towns aren’t staying the same.
Officials estimate that Prospect’s net education cost will increase $561,485, or 3 percent, to about $19.2 million, while Beacon Falls’ net cost will decrease $158,782, or 1.4 percent, to about $10.9 million.
The numbers are based on projected revenue figures, including the towns’ Education Cost Sharing grants from the state. The state legislature is still working on the state budget and what the towns will end up getting for ECS grants remains unknown.
Also, the disparity in the projected impact to the net education costs is due to a shift in student population. The net cost, which is the share of the school budget funded by local taxes, is divided between the two towns based on the ratio of students as of Oct. 1. The percentage of Prospect students in the district increased slightly to 61.78 percent, while the percentage of students from Beacon Falls decreased to 38.22 percent.
Prospect has already approved its 2019-20 town budget, but the Prospect Town Council is holding off on setting a tax rate until June with the hopes that a state budget will be approved by then. Beacon Falls officials are expected to finish a town budget proposal next week, with a vote on it likely coming in the first week of June.
As for the school budget, the spending plan includes new staff positions despite staying flat.
The budget includes eight new instructional aides — one for each of the first grade classes in the region.
“We want to make sure the kids coming into the region at a young age get the support they need,” Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin said during the district meeting.
The staff changes also include a new instructional aide for fifth grade and increasing a part-time world language teacher at Long River Middle School to full time. The changes are part of a plan to introduce fifth-graders to world language through Rosetta Stone, an online world language program. The coming school year will be the first time in the region that elementary school students will be exposed to world language during the school day.
The budget eliminates four positions — a full-time and part-time secretary, a part-time nurse’s aide and a part-time armed security guard.
The budget proposal also includes about $15,000 for supplies for the fine arts departments at Woodland Regional High School and Long River, $30,000 for a new phone system at Long River, $15,000 for curriculum writing, and funds for various other items, like teacher training and new uniforms for some sports teams.
Increases in the budget were offset by decreases in other areas, including a $313,360 decrease in the district’s debt payments.
“I think across the board I can honestly say we’re a comprehensive school system and fiscally responsible,” Yamin said.