BETHEL – SAD 44 Superintendent David Murphy has proposed a 2003-04 budget of $8,907,090, which is 3.1 percent more than this year.

Murphy said that the proposal, which is $277,955 more than last year, was recommended by the Finance Committee and reflects a complete overhaul of prior district budgets.

“Instead of beginning with the existing budget and increasing from that point,” said Murphy, “we examined the history of expenditures within the past few years, determined an approximate per pupil expenditure based on that history and challenged our administrators to develop a new budget from scratch. Although I hesitate to use the term zero-based budget, I will say that this budget contains the closest thing to it over the last 20 years. Every area was scrutinized and assessed and, as a result, many changes have been made.”

He explained that the biggest portion of the proposed budget absorbed negotiated salaries and benefits in the amount of $390,398.

“This figure alone would have represented a total increase of approximately 4.5 percent or an average increase to the local assessment of nearly 7.3 percent. As a result the original draft came in at an increase to the local assessment of approximately 2.5 percent. During discussions with the Finance Committee, however, it was decided that a 3.5 percent increase would be more realistic. The additional 1 percent has been added to the contingency line, necessitating a vote of the board if it is required to be expended. It is a genuine honest budget that talks about every line in it, and has taken into consideration the taxpayer without compromising the student. It is the most real budget the board has seen in quite some time,” said Murphy.

He also noted that about 75 percent of the budget is made up of the negotiated salaries and benefits, which are fixed costs over which there is no control.

Three steps remain in finalizing and approving the 2004 fiscal year budget. First will be action by the full school board on May 12. Second will be a public hearing at Telstar High School in Bethel on May 27. And third will be the district referendum on June 10 when voters from the five district towns will go to the polls.

SAD 44 is made up of the towns of Andover, Bethel, Greenwood, Newry and Woodstock.



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