FARMINGTON — Any residents in the Mt. Blue Regional School District who want to weigh-in on upcoming budget deliberations for the 2011-12 school year will have their chance to voice opinions on where to cut and what to save at a meeting next week.

A public meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 25, in the Mt. Blue Middle School cafeteria prior to the regular school board meeting. Superintendent Michael Cormier will present a brief presentation and members of the board’s budget subcommittee will facilitate a discussion with community members. The district includes Chesterville, Farmington, Industry, New Sharon, New Vineyard, Temple, Vienna, Weld and Wilton.

“We want to hear about things people want the Budget Committee and school board to protect and the areas where we can save money,” said Superintendent Michael Cormier. “The goal is to get their input before we build the budget.”

The public meeting represents another step in the recent efforts to generate greater community involvement in the process, he said.

Last year was the first time the school board established a subcommittee to work directly with Cormier and administrators to develop a budget. The joint effort was productive but the cuts generated controversy among the community and employees who said at the time they wanted to have greater input early in the process.

Community meetings are one way to open up the process, officials have said.

The $22.1 million budget adopted by voters last May represented a decrease of $1.5 million over the prior year and a loss of $1.6 million in state aid. Twelve teaching positions and several support staff jobs were eliminated, while budgets for educational and extracurricular programs and operations were reduced or cut.

Cormier anticipates a projected loss of $900,000 in state subsidies for the coming year.

For the first time, budget meetings have been held separately with teachers and support staff from each school to get their input. Without exception, those attending said in light of last year’s cuts, it was important to preserve existing personnel, he said.

Another suggestion was to put all district schools on the same schedule and save money with a single bus run. Now, Mt. Blue High School and Mt. Blue Middle School run from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the elementary schools go from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Closing the Cushing Elementary School in Wilton and moving those youngest students across the street to the Academy Hill School was suggested but that would not produce a sizable savings.

“Eighty percent of our budget is in personnel,” Cormier said.

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