Board sends $9.2 million budget to voters

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BETHEL — SAD 44 board members unanimously approved a $9.2 million operating budget for 2010-11 Monday night.

The figure is about $400,000 less than this year, and to get there, Superintendent David Murphy said 15 full-time equivalent positions were eliminated, representing about 13 people who will lose their jobs.

Positions lost are: one and a half Telstar High School teachers; three Telstar Middle School teachers; half a physical education specialist; two educational technicians; two custodians; two and a half secretaries; two food service workers; one maintenance position; and half a transportation position.

Other reductions include cuts for books, equipment, supplies, the elimination of the late Friday bus run, some administrative costs, and elimination of first year French. Murphy said it is hoped that that will be reinstated in the future.

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None of the after-school activities were deleted, and all educational programs were retained.

Closure of Woodstock and Andover elementary schools, and the Ethel Bisbee central office building are not scheduled for the immediate future.

Murphy said the Facilities Committee will begin a study to find a suitable space for the central office sometime after the budget vote.

Despite the job cuts and budget cutbacks, school taxes will increase because of the significant reduction in state aid to education.

Murphy and the board tried to divide the losses among an increase in school taxes and a reduction in the budget, a number he said is at the 2004 level.

State aid to education for school year 2004-05 was $2.4 million toward a $9.34 million operating budget. State aid dipped to $1.7 million for school year 2009-10, then to $766,264 for the upcoming year.

If the proposed budget is accepted by voters, homes valued at $100,000 in each of the member towns will see an approximate increase in school taxes of: $61.50 in Andover; $51.20 in Bethel; $77.80 in Greenwood; $75.90 in Newry; and $42.90 in Woodstock.

Residents of the five member towns will have a chance to attend a public hearing, then vote on the proposed budget at a districtwide budget meeting at 7 p.m. May 24 at the Telstar Middle/High School auditorium. The articles on the warrant will be broken down to 11 categories such as regular, special and vocational instruction, athletics, buildings and grounds, and transportation.

Voters will then be asked to validate the budget decision made on May 24 at a referendum June 8 in each of the member towns. Residents will also be asked whether they want to continue the two-step process to adopting a school budget, or revert to holding only a districtwide meeting to vote on the budget.

eadams@sunjournal.com

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