Region 16 budget proposal fails at referendum

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 Beacon Falls Democratic Registrar of Voters Katherine Grace, left, and Republican Registrar of Voters Helen Mis count votes on Region 16’s proposed school budget Tuesday night at Laurel Ledge Elementary School. The proposed $38.8 million 2013-14 budget was rejected by an unofficial count of 185 votes. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Beacon Falls Democratic Registrar of Voters Katherine Grace, left, and Republican Registrar of Voters Helen Mis count votes on Region 16’s proposed school budget Tuesday night at Laurel Ledge Elementary School. The proposed $38.8 million 2013-14 budget was rejected by an unofficial count of 185 votes. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

REGION 16 — Voters in Beacon Falls and Prospect rejected Region 16’s proposed $38.8 million budget for the coming school year by 185 votes at a referendum Tuesday.

The unofficial count was 828 no votes to 643 yes votes. The budget was overwhelmingly rejected by Beacon Falls voters, as 454 voters cast their ballot against it while 214 Beacon Falls voters cast a ballot in favor of the budget.

Prospect voters approved the budget with 429 yes votes to 374 no votes. However, the 55 vote differential in Prospect was not enough to overcome the results in Beacon Falls.

Board of Education Chair Priscilla Cretella described the results as unfortunate, but said she anticipated the budget would be rejected in Beacon Falls. She said a number of Beacon Falls residents have spoken to her about the budget.

“I’m not surprised it didn’t pass here in Beacon Falls,” Cretella said after the results from Beacon Falls were tallied inside the gymnasium of Laurel Ledge Elementary School in Beacon Falls Tuesday night. “Prospect approved the budget by 55 votes, but it wasn’t enough to carry it.”

The $38.8 million proposed 2013-14 budget for the region, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, would have increased school spending by about $1.52 million or 4.1 percent.

Under the rejected budget, the net education cost for Beacon Falls would have increased $558,031, or 5.93 percent, to $9.96 million. Prospect’s net education cost would have increased $933,072, or 6.07 percent, to $16.3 million under the proposed budget.

Cretella said the board is going to discuss the next step at its regular meeting Wednesday night. She said several areas of the budget will be looked at to make further cuts and reductions.

“We’re going to look at technology. We’re going to look at the kindergarten [enrollment] figures and we’re going to talk to the principals,” Cretella said.

The 4.1 percent budget increase was the highest the board has sought in a few years.

Over the past four years the budget increase was less than 1 percent on average each year, according to school officials. Between 2003 and 2009, the increase averaged 4 percent annually.

The increase is driven by fixed costs.

Tuition for students who attend magnet schools and special education students who are out-placed to schools for services the district can’t provide is set to increase $656,640. Three additional out-placed special education students moved into the district this school year, according to a budget overview.

Staff wages are going up $217,872. Wages for certified teachers are increasing by 2.99 percent and non-certified staff will get a 2.5 percent increase next school year under contractual agreements. Wages for both groups were kept flat this school year and according to officials the increase in wages is offset by proposed staff changes.

Health insurance and debt service costs are set to increase $306,802 and $266,607 respectively. The remaining significant increases come in electricity costs, $132,689, and bus transportation, $74,534.

In order to reach the $38.8 million budget, the board cut a number of positions.

Five intervention specialists — four at the elementary schools and one at Long River Middle School — have been cut. A middle school teaching position has been cut as well as a third-grade teaching position at Laurel Ledge Elementary School in Beacon Falls.

The board will not be filling a full-time position in special education. Two cafeteria aide positions have also been eliminated.
The position cuts will be made through a mixture of layoffs and attrition.

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.

1 COMMENT

  1. If the people in Prospect are so in favor of an increase and this is the best that the Board of Education can do, then perhaps the people of Prospect would consider absorbing the whole $1.52 million increase and those in Beacon Falls would be able to maintain the fiscal responsibility of a 0% increase on the town’s funds.

    Granted, this suggestion goes against everything a Regional School District should stand for, but then again so does using the proper noun name of one of the member towns in the district to name a school.