ANDOVER – By unanimous vote Monday, SAD 44 board members approved an $8,907,090 school budget for the 2003-2004 school year.

Superintendent David Murphy said the spending plan is as close to a bare-bones budget as he, Business Manager Bruce Powell, the administrative staff and the general staff could develop.

“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,” Murphy said. “Every area was scrutinized and assessed and, as a result, many changes have been made. Instead of beginning with the existing budget and increasing from that point, 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 and staff to develop a new budget from scratch. We developed the budget with complete concern for the taxpayers throughout the district and concentrated on not lowering the quality of education for the students.”

The budget has an increase of $277,955 over the $8,629,135 approved for the 2002-2003 school year, which reflects a 3.22 percent increase.

To reach a final figure on the local assessments for the district’s towns – Andover, Bethel, Greenwood, Newry and Woodstock – $2,210,208 was subtracted for state and local revenues, leaving a balance to be raised of $5,566,607.

Following the board’s vote on the proposed budget, Board Chairman Kelli Scotti praised the administrative team, staff and Finance Committee for their efforts to keep the budget as low as possible.

“I would like to commend the Finance Committee, Dave Murphy, Bruce Powell and all staff members on the job they did,” said Scotti. “The budget has been presented in a clear manner and is certainly a fine effort with the taxpayers and students in mind.”

The board set Tuesday, May 27 as the date for a public hearing on the proposal. It will start at 7 p.m. in the library at Telstar High School on Route 26 in Bethel.

In other action, Tuesday, June 10, was set for the budget referendum in each town.

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