Region 16 budget passes at district meeting

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By Elio Gugliotti, Editor

PROSPECT — Voters on May 3 overwhelmingly approved Region 16’s $40.9 million 2021-22 school budget at a district meeting.

The spending plan passed by a 67-1 vote. The budget increases overall school spending in the region, which is comprised of Beacon Falls and Prospect, by $253,657.

“It’s a very well-thought-out budget. It supports our students,” school board Chairman Priscilla Cretella said after the vote.

The roughly 0.6% budget increase is the first one in the region in three years. The budget includes implementing new math curriculum — Illustrative Math and SAVVAS-Envision — for grades six through 12, and replacing interactive boards in classrooms as of part technology upgrades.

The budget eliminates the assistant principal position at Long River Middle School, cuts seven teaching positions and an instructional aide, and changes one certified substitute to a noncertified substitute position.

When questioned about the plan to cut the middle school assistant principal job, Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin said officials anticipate that enrollment at the school will drop to about 465 students.

Enrollment at the school — and the region — has declined over recent years. There were 595 students at the middle school in 2010-11, according to state data.

Yamin said the plan is to have a teaching vice principal at the middle school — a teacher with administrative certification — and staff at district office assist the principal when needed. He said the board will evaluate cutting the assistant principal early next school year and revisit the decision if officials feel it is needed.

“There’s nothing we do today that we can’t bring back tomorrow as a result of the budget,” he said.

The budget keeps the personal learning adviser position at Woodland Regional High School full time. Previous budget proposals reduced the job, which oversees an internship program for Woodland students among other duties, to part time. The board also previously restored one school counselor position that was originally proposed to be cut in the budget.

The board restored the positions after members of the public argued they shouldn’t be cut, especially when students may need additional social and emotional services due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think that the Board of Education took appropriate action returning those to the budget,” said school board Vice Chairman Robert Hiscox, who added the board listened to public concerns and did its due diligence with the budget.

The budget’s financial impact on Beacon Falls and Prospect is drastically different.

The net education cost is divided between Beacon Falls and Prospect based on the percentage of students from each town. The percentage of Prospect students increased from 63.25% to 65% this school year, which shifted more of the net cost onto the town.

Based on the student population ratio and estimated revenues, Prospect’s net education cost is increasing $854,425, or 4.16%, to about $21.4 million. Beacon Falls’ net cost is decreasing $622,234, or 5.57% to about $10.2 million.