BETHEL — Steps were taken Thursday afternoon to try to restore some of the nearly 40 professional and support positions in SAD 44 as the Finance Committee met to discuss the 2010-11 operating budget.

The committee also voted to recommend adopting the adult and community education budget, and to offer buy-outs to a minimum of three longtime instructors.

Specific positions to be eliminated will likely be recommended later this month after the Education Committee has a chance to review the building of the budget and Superintendent David Murphy speaks with those that will be affected.

The job cuts and belt-tightening are the result of far fewer state-aid dollars because of a significant hike in property valuations in the district’s five member towns.

The district is currently operating with a $9.7 million budget, and the state provided $1.7 million in state aid. The anticipated state aid this year is $1 million less.

The final adopted budget for 2010-11 will likely be much less because state aid has been more than cut in half.

To try to salvage some of the positions slated for elimination, the Finance Committee recommended that a one-time lump sum of $15,000 be paid for SAD 44 teachers who are of retirement age and who have served at least 10 years within the district.

Murphy said five such teachers are currently in the district.

Elementary class size may rise to 18 or 20 from the current average classroom size of 15 to 18. High school class sizes will also be studied with an eye toward possibly restructuring classes.

Possible buy-outs for longtime support employees has not yet been tackled, although it will likely come up at a later meeting. Fourteen support positions are slated for cutting.

The adult education proposed budget was reduced by 21 percent, to $157,000 from $198,000 to make up for a 34 percent reduction in state subsidies and to keep the local share down. To reach the reduced adult education proposed budget, the adult education clerk’s position was cut to three-fifths time, and the position of community education coordinator was eliminated.

“That budget has been reduced for the past three years,” Murphy said.

All Finance Committee recommendations must go before the full SAD 44 board for action.

The committee will continue work on the proposed budget at its next meeting set for 8:30 a.m., April 8. Murphy said he will bring several possible 2010-11 budget scenarios to the meeting  for review.

The full board will vote on a figure to present to residents at its May 10 meeting.

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