Voters to have their say on Region 16 budget


REGION 16 — The fate of Region 16’s proposed $37.3 million school budget rests in the hands of the voters.

A region meeting for Beacon Falls and Prospect voters to cast their ballots on the budget will be held Monday at 7 p.m. at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls.

The $37.3 million proposal represents a $527,628 or 1.44 percent increase over current school spending. Under the proposal, Beacon Falls’ net education cost would increase $203,403 or 2.19 percent. Prospect’s net cost would increase $528,484 or 3.55 percent.

Beacon Falls’ net education cost for the current year is $9.27 million. Prospect’s net education cost is $14.9 million this year.

“We hope they (voters) understand and recognize that the board and administration have worked hard to pare the budget down to a 1.44 percent increase and they support the budget as they have in the past,” interim Superintendent of Schools Tim James said.

The school board decided to send the budget to a region meeting because it would be cheaper than holding an all-day referendum. The meeting will open at 7 p.m. with a brief presentation in Woodland’s auditorium on the highlights of the budget. The school board can not amend the budget at the meeting.

Voters are free to cast their paper ballot anytime after the meeting is opened and don’t have to sit through the presentation.

Two separate rooms will be used for voting, one for voters from each town. The registrars of voters from each town will be on hand to confirm the identity of voters.

There is no set time for when voting will end. James said once everyone who’s at the meeting has voted, officials will wait a little while longer to see if anyone else shows up then close voting. The ballots will then be counted by hand.

In getting the budget increase down to 1.44 percent the board reduced or cut from multiple areas of the budget, the largest being nearly $300,000 in reductions from technology improvements in the schools.

The budget includes the elimination of a handful of positions as well.

A sixth-grade teaching position at Long River Middle School will be eliminated. The remaining position cuts will take place at Woodland. Two part-time custodial positions, which are already vacant, will be cut at the high school along with a part-time English teacher and social studies teacher.

The part-time teachers will be laid off, James said. It is the first time to his knowledge, James said, the district has been unable to shift teachers around to positions opened up by attrition. He said it’s a difficult thing for the board to deal with.

The board went through budget requests line-by-line, James said, but after reducing such budgets as technology and supplies, the only place left to save money is in staff.

James said the board reached a responsible budget in light of the economy and the fact that the voters recently approved a three-part, $46.7 million school building project.

If the budget is approved as is the potential remains for the cost to the towns to go down in the future.

The budget is based on flat Education Cost Share funding from the state. If the state were to increase the town’s ECS grants, officials have said that extra money will go towards reducing the towns’ education expenses.