BETHEL — More than 100 residents Monday night took nearly two and a half hours to pass a proposed SAD 44 operating budget as developed by the school board.
That figure is $9,195,000, down $500,000 from the current year’s budget.
However, it wasn’t passed until many people tried to reinstate several teaching or educational technician positions that have been cut from the proposed budget.
District resident Susan Jennings argued that the elimination of math and science teachers at Telstar Middle School could hurt that age group.
“Science, technology, engineering and math opens children’s minds,” she said before motioning to amend the original $3,552,916 regular instruction line by adding $160,000.
For that amount, Superintendent David Murphy said all three middle school teachers (the third is a social studies position) and a half-time high school math teacher could be reinstated if the board decided to go with the sentiment of the people arguing to put the positions back in.
A vote on the amendment was defeated 55-48.
Another resident motioned to add about $85,000 to the regular instruction line which would allow reinstatement of the middle school math and science teachers. That amendment went down to defeat by a vote of 67-57. Motions were also made to reinstate two educational technician positions, one for special education and one for computer technology. Those were also defeated, but by larger margins.
In the end, all proposed staff cuts remained, which are five teachers, two educational technicians, two custodians, 2.5 secretaries, one maintenance, two food service workers, 20 percent of the special education administration budget and a half-time transportation position.
Murphy said the upcoming fiscal year is likely to be the first of at least two budget cycles that will hit the district hard because of the member towns’ higher valuation and a severe reduction in state aid. He said property valuation hikes statewide are expected to rise by 1.21 percent, while the towns in SAD 44 are expected to increase by 5.53 percent. That means even less state aid than this year’s allotment of $766,000.
The budget passed on Tuesday will now go before voters in each member town for a referendum validation vote on June 8.
If that, too, is passed, Murphy said it will be nearly identical to a school budget passed seven years ago when the amount of state aid was much higher.
The local school tax impact on properties in each town, based on homes valued at $100,000, would be increases of: Andover, $61.50; Bethel, $51.20; Greenwood, $77.80; Newry, $75.90 and Woodstock, $42.90.