BOE approves budget for hearing

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REGION 16 — The Board of Education has approved a $40.5 million 2015-16 budget to send to a public hearing.

The public hearing on the proposed budget, which is an increase of $796,500 or 2 percent over current school spending, is April 8 at 7 p.m. at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls.

Region 16 oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect.

The net education cost for Beacon Falls under the proposed budget is $10,832,933, an increase of $382,621 or 3.66 percent. Prospect’s net education costs will increase $502,894 or 3.01 percent to $17,224,839 under the spending plan.

The net expenses are calculated by taking the total expenditures required and subtracting the revenue from state and local sources.

The school board approved the proposed budget, 5-1, March 25 and decided to cancel a final budget workshop scheduled for April 1. Board members Robert Hiscox and Christine Arnold were absent.

Vice Chair Priscilla Cretella voted against approving the budget because she had some further questions and wasn’t prepared to approve it.

Following the public hearing, the board will approve a final budget proposal and the method to vote on the budget — either at a district meeting or a referendum. The budget vote is scheduled for early May.

The spending plan is about $325,000 less than the budget Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin proposed early in March.

Board Chair Donna Cullen said it was great the board was able to reach a consensus on the budget and lower the increase at the same time.

The bulk of the reduction, about $274,000, from Yamin’s proposal comes under health insurance. At first, officials were projecting a 13 percent increase in health insurance. The health insurance renewal came in at about a roughly 10 percent increase. The cost of health insurance will increase about $430,000 to roughly $4.5 million for the district, according to Director of Finance and Business Operations Pamela Mangini.

The spending plan also includes a nearly $18,000 reduction for textbooks, about $10,000 less for general supplies and a $25,300 adjustment in capital projects from Yamin’s proposal.

The board did add a 0.5 counselor position back into the budget that was proposed to be eliminated. The focus of the position will be on a job and internship program for high school students.

The budget includes significant staff changes as a number of positions will be cut and others added. The staff changes impact certified and non-certified staff, and the majority of the reductions come as a result of Algonquin and Community Schools merging into the new Prospect Elementary School in the fall.

In the end, the budget reduces staff by the equivalent of 6.1 full-time positions. Salaries for certified and non-certified staff will increase about $116,000 to nearly $19.8 million, under the proposal.

Other major drivers for the increase are $388,521 to implement full-day kindergarten and about $261,000 more for utilities. The spending plan also includes $9,500 for an academic enrichment program and $4,500 to develop a talented and gifted program at Long River Middle School in Prospect.