Second time the charm for school budget

Region 16 Board of Education member Nazih Noujaim, left, and school board Chair Robert Hiscox listen Tuesday night as results from the region’s budget referendum are announced at the firehouse in Prospect. The school budget passed, 926 to 262. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI


PROSPECT — Voters overwhelmingly approved Region 16’s 2018-19 school budget the second time around.

The roughly $40.73 million budget passed by 664 votes, 926 to 262, at a referendum on Tuesday.

“I’m pleased that the people recognized that we’ve done a fiscally-responsible job with the budget, that we are providing excellent programs to all kids at all grade levels,” Board of Education Chair Robert Hiscox said.

The budget decreases school spending by $205,880, or 0.5 percent, over the current budget for the region, which is comprised of Beacon Falls and Prospect.

The budget also decreases the net education costs — the share of the school budget funded by local taxes — for both towns based on increased education funding in the revised state budget that was approved earlier this month.

Under the budget, Beacon Falls’ net cost will go down $221,636, or 1.97 percent, to a little more than $11 million. Prospect’s net cost will decrease $516,231, or 2.7 percent, to nearly $18.6 million.

“The fact that the budget is less than it was last year shows that we are diligently looking at every taxpayer dollar we’re spending. I believe that was what we were elected to do — take care of the taxpayers’ dollars and provide the best educational program we can for the kids,” said Hiscox, who complimented the board and the administration for the time and effort spent crafting the budget.

Tuesday’s approval came 15 days after voters rejected the first budget proposal at a district meeting. The budget’s bottom line is the same as the one defeated earlier this month. However, the towns’ net costs were projected to increase, much more significantly for Beacon Falls, at the time of the district meeting due to what the projections for state funding were prior to the first vote.

Beacon Falls voters overwhelmingly rejected the budget at the district meeting, leading to its failure. On Tuesday, the budget passed in both towns. The vote in Prospect was 644 yes to 63 no. In Beacon Falls, the budget passed 282 yes to 199 no.

Hiscox said the budget passing in both towns showed “that people understand that this is a good, sound budget. That they understand that Region 16 is moving in the right direction.”

The budget adds several new positions, including four part-time and one full-time security guard positions. The positions are on top of three full-time unarmed security guards in place at Woodland Regional High School and would allow for an armed guard at each school. The school board has supported having armed guards in the schools.

The budget also adds a full-time elementary science teacher, a full-time math interventionist, two full-time instructional aides for kindergarten, a full-time cafeteria aide and a part-time guidance counselor.

The budget proposal eliminates a part-time French teacher position and reduces the assistant director of special education position from a 12-month position to a 10-month one.