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In a referendum May 6, voters in the three towns of the Region 4 School District approved an $18.37 million budget for 2014-2015. The expenditures cover the costs of operations for the district's two regional schools-John Winthrop Middle School and Valley Regional High School.
Voting in the three towns was:
Chester: Yes 59/No 37 (+22)
Deep River: Yes 69/No 150 (-90)
Essex: Yes 191/No 60 (+131)
Total: Yes 319/No 156 (+63)
The approved budget means increased expenditures for all three towns. The Region 4 budget is divided among the three towns based on each town's student enrollment at the two regional schools. The 2014-2015 budget, divided among the three towns, is: Chester, $4,364,508, an increase of $106,615 based on 240 students; Deep River, $5,602,987, an increase of $442,063 based on 308 students; and Essex, $8,112,489, an increase of $30,717 based on 446 students.
The Deep River vote was a reflection of the larger-than-usual increase in that town's share. Deep River's town and elementary school budgets will head to a referendum vote of their own later this month. If approved, the tax rate is expected to increase by 0.85 mills, due almost entirely to the increase in the Region 4 school budget.
It is not unusual for Essex to carry the vote, which it did again this year, by a significant plurality. At last week's Board of Selectmen meeting, Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman said the referendum brought out only 575 voters in all three towns, with only 251 in Essex, yet it cost the town $3,200 to conduct.
Although the 2014-2015 budget shows total expenditures at $18,377,431, the Region 4 Board of Education anticipates revenues at $297,447, reducing net billings to the towns to $18,079,984. The net expenditures represent an increase of $579,396, or 3.31 percent, when compared with the present year's budget.