Region 4 Budget Proposal Shows 5 Percent Increase

The Region 4 Board of Education has proposed a budget for fiscal year 2014-2015 totals $18.7 million, just more than a five percent increase when compared with total expenditures for the present fiscal year. The budget finances the operations of John Winthrop Middle School and Valley Regional High School, the district's two regional schools.

The budget proposal includes estimated revenues of $297,447. The result is that net billings to the towns total $18,374,943, a five percent or $874,355 increase over the present year. The regional school district costs are divided among the three towns, based on the number of students each town sends to the two schools. Projected enrollment for the next school year at John Winthrop Middle School is 334, a decline of 23 students, while projected enrollment at Valley Regional sees a spike of 30 additional students.

The major budget drivers within the proposal account for more than $900,000 in increases. The largest expense within the budget is salaries, which total $9.67 million for 2014-2015, an increase of $163,022.

Additional increases include $94,795 for implementation of a transitional program at Valley Regional, $29,252 for employee benefits not associated with health care coverage, $68,773 for in-district special education services, and $156,447 for out of district special education.

Other requested increases are $37,802 to restore some supply and textbook accounts, $10,467 in the cafeteria subsidy, $253,437 in debt service, and an increase of $100,955 in the Region 4 board's share of the supervision district budget.

A portion of the potential increases are offset by reductions. These include reduction of a part-time Latin teaching position at Valley Regional, the phase out of the early retirement program, a reduction in tuition for vocational agricultural school, and a reduction in equipment purchases. The reductions total $220,292.

The net impact of the budget driver increases and reductions is $694,658.

The budget proposes new positions. At John Winthrop, a social worker position would be upgraded from part-time to fulltime. Shared by the middle school and high school, there would be a new part-time position for an adaptive physical education teacher. Valley Regional would also gain a part-time reading teacher. These certified positions, including salaries and benefits, total $103,558. There would also be a new para-educator position for special education at John Winthrop at a cost of $26,754.

There were a series of new requests within the budget-23-but only seven were approved by the board. Valley Regional prepares for its upcoming accreditation review with a self-study process estimated to cost $9,300. There is a $12,000 expenditure to establish an assessment system for math and reading at both schools, as required by new state guidelines.

Four school security requests were approved. These included $5,000 for additional security cameras at John Winthrop and $10,000 at Valley Regional.

"More cameras are needed at each school," the budget document says.

A $3,500 security gate at John Winthrop was included in the new budget, as was a $25,000 automatic security gate at the high school. The final approved request was sand blasting and repairing the rear canopy at the middle school.

Requests for sewing machines in home economics, keyboards and stands in the music program, microscopes for science, tech education equipment, library furniture, and replacement of the drumline at Valley Regional "which is beyond repair and more than 30 years old and is essential to the band program" were not approved.

If approved at a referendum, this proposed budget will require the following funding by the towns:

• Chester $4,435,711

• Deep River $5,694,395

• Essex $8,244,837

Total $18,374,943

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