SAD 44 board to begin painful decisions

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BETHEL — Superintendent David Murphy has explained the significant loss of state aid to schools and has proposed measures to reduce the SAD 44 operating budget.

It will be time on Monday for the board to reflect on the information presented to it and to begin deciding which positions or programs will be reduced.

The board meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the library at Telstar High School.

The district faces the possibility of losing dozens of positions and closing several facilities because of the loss of about $2 million in state aid over the next two fiscal years.

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One thing that won’t be discussed Monday are the closures of Andover Elementary School, Woodstock Elementary School and the Ethel Bisbee School which serves as the central office. Those issues will be taken up at a later meeting.

At last month’s meeting, Murphy presented a scenario that called for eliminating 14 teaching positions, 14 support positions and 10 more full-time-equivalent positions if Woodstock and Andover schools close in June 2011. The proposed cuts are the result of a substantial reduction in state aid to education.

Murphy said earlier this week that the district might receive slightly more money in state aid than originally anticipated because of higher-than-expected state revenues. But he believed it wouldn’t be enough to offset most of the proposed cuts.

Among the budget-related agenda items for Monday is one that asks the board to adopt some kind of split that would reduce the budget and increase the local share paid by each of the five member towns. Such a split could reduce the number of job and program cuts.

The split would not be exactly 50-50 but would be some configuration of the percentages that would both raise taxes and reduce spending to meet the lack of state support. Much of that decrease in state aid is attributed to higher property values in the member towns.

The district, which serves about 900 students, adopted a $9.6 million budget for the current fiscal year. That figure will likely be decreased to less than $9 million, which would be at the pre-2004 level, Murphy has said.

The district employs about 170 professional and support staff.

Right now, Bethel provides 34.29 percent of the district’s responsibility for the budget; Newry gives 33.54 percent; Woodstock, 13.46 percent; Greenwood, 12.18 percent; and Andover, 6.5 percent. The school unit also includes several unorganized townships. Shares are based largely on property values and enrollment.

eadams@sunjournal.com

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