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CHESTER - The Chester Elementary School Board of Education is considering its 2014-2015 fiscal year budget. Its early proposal calls for a $4.1 million request, a decrease of 1.48 percent when compared with this year's school budget.
The budget proposal shows major budget increases totaling $54,365, but major budget reductions of $151,386. These include increases of $33,363 in contracted salaries, $5,000 in substitute teachers' salary, $8,499 in workers compensation insurance, and $7,498 in various other accounts.
Major reductions in the proposed budget draft include $60,430 attributed to staff changes in the present budget year, $11,693 from the reduction of a physical education teacher from a fulltime position to a part-time position, $16,569 in the phase-out of the early retirement program, $6,863 from enrollment changes in health care coverage, $21,700 in unemployment compensation, $5,000 in out-of-district tuition costs, $26,850 in reduced equipment requests, and $2,281 in the school board's share of the district's supervision budget.
There are additions to the budget proposal. Like the other education budgets in the district, there is a new expenditure-$4,443-for an assessment and monitoring system for math and reading, which are now state requirements. The rest of the additional services include replacement of three fire-rated doors, replacement of the sidewalk around the back of the school, and replacement of some classroom furniture, library tables, and gymnasium mats.
Even with these additions, which total $33,690, this budget draft shows a reduction of $61,696 in the total budget.
The elementary school continues to show a decrease in student enrollment. In the present school year there are 228 students enrolled, 13 fewer than last year. For 2014-2015 projections estimate a 14 student decrease. In five years, the school's population has declined by 71 students.
The present year's budget was also a decrease from the previous year and included the elimination of two fulltime teaching positions. The school district and the state Department of Education are presently in discussions concerning the school budget. The education department is contending that Chester may have violated the state's minimum budget requirement (MBR), which, briefly stated, prohibits school districts from spending less on education in a single budget year than it did in the previous year. There are exceptions. In addition, the Region 4 School District's governing structure, which includes five separate budgets, is unique. Discussions among the state, school administrators and town officials concerning MBR are continuing.
In this draft proposal, the Board of Education is seeking the following budget:
Employee benefits $730,260
Professional, technical services $79,961
Purchased property services $201,316
Other purchased services $201,985
Other objects $3,925