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Waterford - The Board of Education unanimously approved the superintendent's proposed budget of $44,768,410 - an increase of roughly 0.55 percent over this year's budget - at its meeting Thursday night.
"We can honestly say that this is a needs-based budget," Chairwoman Kathleen McCarty said.
When Superintendent Jerome R. Belair originally presented his proposed budget to the board earlier this month, it was for $45,162,491, a 1.44 percent increase. But due to a better-than-expected health insurance claim performance, Belair said, the board was able to reduce his recommended budget by more than $500,000.
"I almost feel like we've hit the lottery," Belair said. "But one of the things I know is that it took a great deal of hard work. This didn't just happen by closing your eyes and clicking your heels two times."
The reductions are the results of changes in the design of the health insurance plan, the migration of more employees to a high-deductible health plan and negotiations with all six of the district's bargaining groups, Belair said.
"While the projected cost of health insurance and the employee contribution rates are increasing modestly, the actual budget impact to the Board of Education for health insurance will be lower than FY14," Belair wrote to the board in a memo. "We will require less funding for health insurance in FY15 than in FY14."
Before approving the recommended budget, the board increased the level of funding for math support for teachers and paraprofessionals at the town's three elementary schools.
In total, the board reduced the superintendent's original recommended budget by $394,081.
The budget is due to the town's finance department today and will be reviewed by the Board of Finance during its budget hearings, which begin in March.