BETHEL — A proposal to close three buildings and eliminate nearly 40 positions in Regional School Unit 44 in the next two fiscal years would cut costs by up to $2 million, Superintendent David Murphy told the school board Monday night.
“This is a challenge the district has to face,” Murphy told directors and more than 100 residents of Bethel, Newry, Andover, Woodstock and Greenwood gathered at Telstar Regional High School to hear his proposals.
The measures include:
• Closing Andover Elementary School and busing its approximately 30 students to Crescent Park Elementary School in Bethel.
• Closing Woodstock Elementary School and busing its approximately 85 students to Crescent Park school.
Those moves would bring the Bethel school's enrollment to more than 400.
• Closing the former Ethel Bisbee School in Bethel and moving the district's central offices to the Telstar Middle/High School complex on Route 26 in Bethel.
• Cutting 14 teaching positions in fiscal year 2010-11: two elementary, four middle school, four-and-a-half high school and about three-and-a-half specialists.
• Cutting 14 support positions in fiscal year 2010-11: six educational technicians; two custodial, two-and-a-half secretarial, two food service, a half-time transportation, and a maintenance.
• Cutting 10 full-time equivalent positions in fiscal year 2011-12, if Woodstock and Andover schools close in June 2011.
The district has about 170 professional and support staff and a budget of $9.6 million budget. The district has nearly 940 students from its towns and from several unorganized townships, a drop of about 1 percent from last year.
Murphy said the proposed budget for fiscal year 2010-11 will likely be less than $9 million, which would be at the pre-2004 level.
A significant increase in property values in four of the five district towns, along with a major decrease in state aid, are the primary reasons for the district's financial stress. State aid dropped from $2.4 million in fiscal year 2004-05 to an expected $645,700 for 2010-11.
Even with a reduction of $1 million in the 2010-11 budget, member towns would still see a rise in their school taxes. For Bethel, that would be 34.29 percent; Newry, 33.54 percent; Woodstock, 13.46 percent; Greenwood, 12.18 percent; and Andover, 6.5 percent.
Specifics on staff cuts and programs will be worked out by the board, starting at its next meeting March 8.
“We will move ahead very carefully," Murphy said. "This is a big challenge. If anyone has any thoughts and ideas, we want to hear it,” he said.