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The Regional School District 13 Board of Education passed a 2019-20 budget last week with a net total of $34,793,467, an almost two percent decrease from the previous year.
Since it was first presented by Superintendent of Schools Kathryn Veronesi in February, the proposal was cut by about $708,595.
The board approved moving the proposed budget to a public hearing during a regular meeting on March 27. It will go to the public for review April 10 in advance of a May 7 referendum.
The current budget proposal eliminates certain staffing changes that were originally proposed, including adding a math coach, special education coach and special education teacher. The budget maintains the addition of a library media specialist.
The total reduction of proposed staff saves the district about $300,000 in budget expenditures, according to Veronesi.
After dozens of parents and staff communicated their opposition to the original proposed cuts to the Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) staff – which would have meant a decrease of working months from 12 to 189 days and no paid time off – Veronesi said she met with the ABA staff and administrators re-examined the issue. The approved budget no longer includes any cuts to the program.
“We’ve made the discussion that we will maintain the ABA schedule and compensation as it currently exists,” Veronesi said.
Cuts to the Latin program still remain, however, Veronesi said the administration heard parent and student concerns and decided not to implement the plan to phase out the entire program in coming years. For now, Latin will be offered to incoming eighth graders. Beginning the following year, it will only be offered to high school students.
The board expressed interest in discussing Latin as a programmatic decision at future meetings, but was comfortable moving forward with the budget decision on staffing, which decreases Latin staff hours and increases Spanish ones equally.
Since the superintendent’s budget was first proposed, towns were given estimates for how much Education Cost Sharing they will receive from the state.
Durham could see a decrease of $442,183 this year compared to last year, and Middlefield is looking at losing $151,440 in ECS funding.
In total, the Board of Education is facing a decrease of about $593,600 in funding from the state, if Gov. Ned Lamont’s budget passes as is.
Due to the governor’s proposal to have school districts pay into teachers’ pension funds as well, the board may also need to contribute $114,000 to the Teacher’s Retirement Board.
All together, Veronesi needed to find about $708,000 in the budget to cut or reallocate. About $300,000 was cut in staffing and the remaining $400,000 was covered by a decrease in the district’s insurance by about $618,000 through a recent renewal and bid process.
Before residents officially vote on the Board of Education 2019-20 budget proposal in a referendum on May 7, the public will have the opportunity to hear more about the proposals and voice opinions at a public hearing scheduled for April 10, which will cover the general budget.
The referendum will include two questions: whether to approve or deny the Board of Education’s proposed budget and whether to approve or deny the capital budget proposal.
The capital improvement proposal totals $6.9 million, and includes bonding for various projects like replacing the Pickett Lane culvert and upgrading ventilation or other systems in schools.
The board decided to delay a third question that was previously expected to be on the referendum, regarding a field storage building proposal put forth from The Benchwarmers. The board plans to pursue the proposal further and bring the decision whether to build it to the town in a future referendum or district meeting.