Petition sends Region 16 budget to referendum

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Reg-16-OfficeREGION 16 — Region 16’s proposed 2013-14 budget will once again be voted on at a referendum after a petition was submitted forcing the machine vote.

A referendum on the spending plan for Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, will be held Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Voting will take place at the firehouse in Prospect and Laurel Ledge Elementary School in Beacon Falls.

The proposed budget is nearly $38.5 million budget, an increase of just about $1.2 million or 3.2 percent over the current budget.

The proposal will increase the net education cost to Beacon Falls by $382,888 or 4.07 percent, to nearly $9.8 million. Prospect’s net education cost will increase to nearly $16.1 million under the proposal, an increase of $723,765 or 4.7 percent.

The Board of Education approved the method of voting on the budget as paper ballots at a district meeting. However, Beacon Falls resident Ed Groth submitted a petition with 237 signatures Thursday to force the referendum. The district meeting will still be held Monday at 7 p.m. at Long River Middle School in Prospect to discuss the budget then adjourn to the referendum.

The proposal is the third one the board has sent to a vote. The original proposal was rejected by 185 votes at a May 7 referendum. A second, revised budget was defeated by 45 votes at a referendum May 30.

Both machine votes were forced by petitions.

The board has trimmed the original budget proposal by nearly $332,000 to reach the $38.5 million figure.

 “This is a very, very lean budget,” board Chair Priscilla Cretella said about the $38.5 million spending plan.  

Cretella said the district has worked so hard to raise the education in Region 16 to the level it is today. Further cuts and reductions could reverse that progress, she said.

“I don’t want the students’ education to go backwards,” she said.  

The board has cut or reduced a number of positions over the course of the budget process.

Five intervention specialists, a middle school teaching position and a third-grade teaching position at Laurel Ledge have been eliminated. The board will not be filling a full-time position in special education. Two cafeteria aide positions have also been cut.

Also, the board reduced a theater teacher from a full-time position to a .8 position, a half position in art and a half position in consumer science all at Woodland. The board also reduced a full-time custodian position at Algonquin School in Prospect to part-time.

Following the second failed referendum the board cut the assistant coaching positions for golf and cheerleading at Woodland.

Major cost drivers for the budget include increases in fixed costs such as tuition for students who attend magnet schools and special education students who are out-placed to schools for services the district can’t provide, health insurance and debt service. The increase in debt service is a result of the preliminary bonding of the $47.5 million three-part construction project, according to school officials.

For more information on the budget, visit www.region16ct.org.