Region 16 BOE proposes 1.98% increase in spending

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Region 16 Board of Education members Wendy Oliveira and Nazih Noujaim look over budget information during a workshop Monday night at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. The board has proposed a $37.5 million school budget for next fiscal year. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

BEACON FALLS — After weeks of working to reduce a spending increase, the Region 16 Board of Education has proposed a $37.5 million budget for the 2012-13 school year.

The proposed budget is roughly a $730,000 or 1.98 percent increase over the current school budget.

The board settled on the figure after a lengthy budget workshop Monday night at Woodland Regional High School. While the proposal represents a nearly 2 percent increase now, more reductions are expected when the board meets for its public hearing on the budget next week.

“I expect next week I’ll be bringing to the board further reductions,” interim Superintendent of Schools Tim James said.

James said he anticipates recommending between $100,000 and $125,000 in further reductions. The board didn’t vote on these reductions at the workshop because more details were needed, he explained.

As the proposed budget stands now, Prospect’s school expense would increase by 6.72 percent and Beacon Fall’s school share would go up by 5.52 percent. Beacon Falls’ net education cost for the current year is $9.27 million. Prospect’s net education cost is $14.9 million this year.

The town’s net costs will be impacted by a dramatic drop in an anticipated carryover. The board was hit with some large expenses that have significantly reduced its budget carryover in the current budget.

“It was an especially difficult year for the board,” James said.

The board had a bond payment of $247,000 to make and a $176,000 payment following an arbitration settlement. Necessary repairs were also needed for backstops and fields at Woodland and the heating system at Algonquin School.

The board was anticipating a $600,000 carryover in the current budget. But, on Monday, officials said that figure had dropped to $76,000.

The dramatic dip in the carryover doesn’t impact the 2012-13 budget’s bottom line. But, in the past any carryover has been returned to the towns and used to offset increases in school spending.

The proposed budget includes eliminating the equivalent of 3.5 full-time positions, 2.5 of which are teaching positions.

A sixth-grade teaching position at Long River Middle School will be eliminated. The remaining position cuts will take place at Woodland. Two part-time custodial positions, which are already vacant, will be cut at the high school along with a .6 English teacher, a .5 music teacher, and a .4 social studies teacher.

The board is hoping that the positions can be cut through attrition rather than layoffs. A volunteer early retirement plan has been offered to teachers eligible to retire. Teachers who choose the plan will be given two years of health benefits at a premium cost share of 23 percent for the first year and 25 percent in the second year.

The board won’t know exactly how many teachers will take the deal until Monday, the deadline to accept the offer. The proposed budget anticipates four teachers accepting the offer for a savings of $60,000.

“I’d like to say there’d be more people and there may be,” James told the board.

School board Chair Priscilla Cretella said this is the toughest budget she’s had to deal with in her many years on the board. She said the board’s been trying to be so fiscally responsible over the past few years that it has cut down to the bone.

“I am disappointed that these are the figures we have to go with to the public hearing. They are what they are. … We are going to try right down to the deadline to find items to remove,” Cretella said.

The public hearing on the budget is scheduled for April 11 at 7 p.m. at Long River Middle School in Prospect.

1 COMMENT

  1. So let’s play the shell game with the taxpayer yet again.

    The BOE is holding back on $100 – 125,000 in cuts until after the public hearing? If you (BOE members) are questioning the need for these funds, I would expect that after the public hearing, where the public will most likely demand additional reductions, you will be prepared to cut more than $125,000.

    So, do not think you can lull we taxpayers into thinking that a reduction of less that $125,000 is you being responsive to a public. Cut those funds now and then let’s talk about further reductions.