Region 4 School Budget Gets Hearing Monday

The Region 4 Board of Education, which oversees John Winthrop Middle School and Valley Regional High School, will present its 2013-2014 fiscal year budget of $17.8 million to taxpayers at a public hearing Monday, April 1 at 7 p.m. at John Winthrop Middle School.

The budget totals $17,776,120, an increase of 1.54 percent when compared with this year's budget. Expected revenues, however, reduce the total to be billed to the towns. That figure is $17,500,588, or a 1.36 percent increase.

The public hearing is meant to provide taxpayers with information about the budget, to answer questions, and to hear comments from the public, including recommendations for including or deleting services, programs, and/or expenditures. After the hearing, the Region 4 school board may make changes to the budget proposal based on the comments heard, or it may choose to pass the recommended budget unchanged to a referendum vote, which will take place in all three towns in early May.

Unlike the district's three elementary schools, enrollment at the two regional schools showed increases this year. Although enrollment projections predicted 351 students at John Winthrop, there were 366 this year, and next year the projection is 364. At Valley Regional, figures predicted for this school year were 612, but the actual student enrollment was 623. Where elementary school budgets are benefiting from lower enrollments and staff reductions, the middle school and high school budget is not, yet.

Major drivers in the 2013-2014 budget include increases of: $277,923 for teacher salaries; $118,675 to add life skills program staff that was added after approval of the 2012-2013 budget; $110,892 for the board's portion of the Supervision District budget; $12,625 for employee benefits; $42,873 for in-district special education services; and $20,279 for tuition to a magnet/vo-ag school. The total of the increases is $583,264.

This increase is partially offset by reductions in debt service, fuel oil costs, out-of-district special education, textbooks, health care costs, and part-time staffing of an art position, among others. The total of reductions is $434,957.

There are two new positions, one a special education paraprofessional at a cost of $25,990, and a second cross country coach at a stipend of $1,610, both at John Winthrop. The board chose not to fund requests for a new math teacher at Valley Regional, a part-time music teacher at John Winthrop and Valley, and an upgrade that would increase the John Winthrop associate principal position from 10 to 12 months.

New requests in the budget total $94,000. These include sinking funds for pavement replacement, flooring replacement, and construction of a storage/maintenance building at Valley Regional. It also includes the resurfacing of four tennis courts.

The Region 4 budget, once approved at referendum, will be allocated among the three member towns based on the number of students each sends to the two regional schools. For the 2013-2014 budget, the three-way allocation will be divided as:

Chester Deep River Essex

School Year 2013-2014 24.33% 29.49% 46.18%

School Year 2012-2013 27.13% 28.26% 44.61%

Change -2.80% 1.23% 1.57%

In dollars, if this budget recommendation is approved, the three-way allocation will be:

Chester $4,257,893

Deep River $5,160,924

Essex $8,081,772

Total $17,500,589


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