Voters OK Region 16 budget

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Beacon Falls resident Lisa Sizer and her daughter Colby, 5, sit outside Laurel Ledge Elementary School in Beacon Falls in support of Region 16’s budget during a referendum on Tuesday. The $38.5 million budget passed by 478 votes. -LUKE MARSHALL
Beacon Falls resident Lisa Sizer and her daughter Colby, 5, sit outside Laurel Ledge Elementary School in Beacon Falls in support of Region 16’s budget during a referendum on Tuesday. The $38.5 million budget passed by 478 votes. -LUKE MARSHALL

REGION 16 — Region 16’s 2013-14 budget made the grade on the third try.

Voters in Beacon Falls and Prospect approved the $38.5 million budget for the coming school year by 478 votes at a referendum Tuesday. The overall unofficial count was 1,244 votes for the budget and 766 votes against it.

In Beacon Falls, the budget was approved by 66 votes, 489 yes votes to 423 no votes. In Prospect, voters passed the budget by 412 votes with 755 votes in favor versus 343 against it.

Board of Education Chair Priscilla Cretella said she was pleased the budget passed in both the towns.

“I’m very pleased because I did not relish going into July 1 and having to make some very, very unnecessary cuts. I’m very, very happy that it passed so we can continue good education in Region 16,” Cretella said.

The nearly $38.5 million budget is an increase of just about $1.2 million or 3.2 percent over the current budget. The proposal will increase the net education cost to Beacon Falls by $382,888 or 4.07 percent, to nearly $9.8 million. Prospect’s net education cost will increase to nearly $16.1 million under the proposal, an increase of $723,765 or 4.7 percent.

The $38.5 million proposal was the third one the board sent to a vote. The original proposed $38.8 million budget was rejected by 185 votes at a May 7 referendum. A second, revised proposal of $38.58 million was defeated by 45 votes at a referendum May 30.

Each referendum was forced by a petition submitted by Beacon Falls resident Ed Groth.

In order to reach the $38.5 million budget, the board cut or reduced a number of positions over the course of the budget process.

Five intervention specialists, a middle school teaching position and a third-grade teaching position at Laurel Ledge have been eliminated. The board will not be filling a full-time position in special education. Two cafeteria aide positions have also been cut.

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. The board also reduced a full-time custodian position at Algonquin School in Prospect to part-time.

Following the second failed referendum the board cut the assistant coaching positions for golf and cheerleading at Woodland.

Major cost drivers for the budget include increases in fixed costs such as tuition for students who attend magnet schools and special education students who are out-placed to schools for services the district can’t provide, health insurance and debt service. The increase in debt service is a result of the preliminary bonding of the $47.5 million three-part construction project, according to school officials.