GREENE — The School Administrative District 52 board Thursday night held its first public discussion on the proposed 2017-18 budget of $26 millionan increase of $506,595, or 1.98 percent, from the current budget.

Board members expect this percentage to increase in the coming months during budget discussions.

“Discussing this earlier on lets us get a better handle on what’s going on,” Chairwoman Betsy Bullard said. “It’s not a super accurate formula to say what the impact is going to be on the towns because there’s so much information we don’t know — but it’s at least a beginning to say what we do know.”

The members discussed the increased percentage that they felt comfortable with going into the next fiscal year.

“If we have programs and services that we want to provide and we strongly feel that they are vital to the district and students, I believe we should fund it,” said Richard Gross of Turner. “I wouldn’t be unhappy if we went as high as 5 or even 6 percent (increase in the next fiscal year budget).”

Although there was no increase set during the meeting, many members believed that there should be a cap at 4 percent.

“I think anything more than a 3 percent increase would be extravagant,” said Peter Ricker, chairman of the Plant/Transportation/Building Committee.

This came after a moving speech from former Tripp Middle School social worker Heidi Richards, who urged the school board to raise the salary of her previous position to make it more appealing for interested applicants.

The social worker and clinical coordinator at TMS has recently been switched from a four-day week job to full-time. However, Richards expressed concerns about the position falling back to part-time after a year.

“I have nothing bad to say about this district, its staff or administration,” Richards said. “. . . I’m here to advocate that this (position) becomes a priority. I’m no longer able to stay silent. I’ve become compelled more than ever to be there for the students at Tripp.”

In other business, the board passed a proposed increase in pay rates for substitute teachers.

Daily rates will increase from $60 to $70 for substitutes holding a high school diploma and from $75 to $80 for a substitute with a teaching certificate.

For substitutes who work 11 days or longer in the same classroom their rate of pay will increase from $70 to $85 for a substitute with two or more years of college and from $80 to $150 for a substitute holding a teaching certificate.

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