Region 16 looking at 2% budget increase

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BY ANDREAS YILMA
CITIZENS NEWS

PROSPECT – The Regional School District 16 Board of Education has proposed a $43.9 million budget for the 2024-2025 school year.

The regional school district, compromised of Beacon Falls and Prospect held its second budget workshop on March 27 at its central district office. The budget proposal calls for an $862,000 — or roughly 2% — increase compared to the current academic year.

The school district will hold a public hearing for the proposed school budget on April 10 at Long River Middle School at 7 p.m.

The budget split for each town is determined by the number of students from each municipality. Beacon Falls has about 672 students — or 34.93% of the district population — while Prospect has about double with 1252 students or 65% of the student population. This leaves Beacon Falls with $22,000 — or a 0.20% increase in the proposed budget and $219,617 or 1% for Prospect.

“We’re very healthy,” Region 16 Superintendent of Schools Michael Yamin said at a March 19 Prospect Town Council meeting. “I think in the last 10 years, we’ve increased our budget by somewhere around 6% over 10 years where most districts increase 3 to 5% over 10 years, which would be a 30% plus increase, we’re at less than 6.5% in 10 years.”

Enrollment has decreased by 13% in the decade. The latest figures show 1930 students and 307 students in the special education population.

While Region 16 has about a 2% school budget increase, the average in the state is about a 5.32% increase, Yamin said.

The school district is switching its health insurance from Anthem Blue Cross to Cigna Healthcare, which reduces its increase from 30% to about 14%, Yamin said at the budget workshop.

The budget proposal includes a collective 18.29% increase from teacher and administrative salaries and other wages, a 3.25% increase in transportation funds but a 19% decrease in curriculum dollars.

Salaries make up 57% of the budget followed by benefits at 15.8% and transportation at 7.3%.

The budget proposal calls for proposed staffing reductions that includes eliminating an instructional aide, a paraprofessional and a behavioral technician. Those cuts result in a $109,988 reduction in expenditures. However the proposed budget also calls for adding two elementary teachers, one speech and language assistant and transforming the Long River Middle School assistant principal from a part time post to full time. Those additions will cost the district an extra $211,164.

“With expenses rising, I’m pretty confident that a 2% increase is responsible fiscally. I think it provides our kids what we want,” Yamin said at the Prospect Town Council meeting. “I’m pretty proud of the budget.”