Preston voters to decide on $10.85 million budget

Preston — Residents and taxpayers will go to the polls Tuesday for the second time this spring to vote on the proposed school budget that was cut to $10.85 million following the May 13 referendum that rejected the $11.2 million budget.

The Board of Finance cut $342,090 from the initial budget, and although school supporters objected that the cut was too high, they also urged voters at the May 29 town meeting to approve the plan.

Residents at that town meeting voted to extend the hours of Tuesday's referendum to run from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Town Hall.

The new proposed total is 2.1 percent higher than this year's $10.6 million budget.

Throughout the spring budget season, the most controversial topic was a plan to add universal preschool to the elementary school. The program would have needed two classes and was estimated to cost about $185,000. Board of Finance members criticized the move as too costly, with Chairman Jerry Grabarek arguing the school board should have started with a half-day preschool program.

Superintendent John Welch said if the reduced school budget is approved Tuesday, he would recommend eliminating the proposed universal preschool, along with two new kindergarten classroom assistants the Board of Education approved in the initial budget.

One teaching position also would have to be eliminated, Welch said. With declining projected enrollment in fifth grade, the Preston Veterans' Memorial School already was preparing to reduce the number of fifth-grade classes from three to two.

The displaced teacher would have moved to the preschool program, Welch said. Welch anticipates one teacher retirement in the coming school year, and he is exploring whether the displaced fifth-grade teacher could take that position.

Welch said eliminating the preschool, the kindergarten assistants and the one teaching position should absorb the $342,090 cut if the budget passes Tuesday.

c.bessette@theday.com

If you go

What: Preston referendum on $10.85 million 2014-15 school budget.
When: Tuesday; polls open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Where: Town Hall, 389 Route 2, Preston.

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