BUCKFIELD – The SAD 39 Board last week unanimously approved a $5.7 million proposed budget for 2003-2004. It represents an increase of 1.94 percent over the $5.5 million approved last year.

Budget Committee Chairman Terry Hayes said that committee met regularly over the past two months with Superintendent William Shuttleworth and the administrative team to get a budget that balanced the needs of the students and the needs of the taxpayers.

“This was really tough because we came into this budget year with over a quarter of a million dollar increase in fixed expenses such as contracts, health insurance, lease/purchases, special education and liability insurance,” said Hayes.

She said that, in order to bring the budget down to a 1.08 mill increase, the board cut a teaching position at the elementary level, a bus driving position and a study hall monitor. There were also moderate to severe cuts in materials, library materials, improvement of instruction and school board expenses, she said.

“We have decreased state revenues and increased expenses at the same time we are trying to increase student performance,” she said, “but this budget represents the best we can do during rough times.”

The next step regarding the proposed budget will come when the annual district budget meeting convenes at 7 p.m., June 5 at the Hartford/Sumner Elementary School in East Sumner.

The board also unanimously ratified a three-year teachers contract calling for a 2 percent raise in 2003-2004 and 3 percent in 2004-2005. The contract includes payment of 89 percent of family plan health insurance coverage.

Personnel Committee Chairman Jerry Wiley said of the raises, “Even during tough economic times we need to keep wages and benefits competitive with surrounding schools. The contract negotiations process was very collegial and we hope that having the contract settled will allow our great and dedicated teachers to focus on the really important work they do in the classroom.”

Under the new contract the starting salary for a teacher will be set at $23,515.

SAD 39 is made up of the towns of Buckfield, Hartford and Sumner.

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