The Region 15 Board of Education approved the 2012-13 fiscal year budget proposed by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Sippy Monday night, April 9, at Pomperaug High School.
The board approved the proposal at $60,251,578, with no increase from the previous year, by a vote of 9-1 and the budget will now proceed to referendum on Wednesday, May 2.
The proposed budget suggests spending increases in salaries, insurance and transportation from the previous year. The budget remains flat though, due to reductions in facilities and instructional costs, along with a large reduction in tuition costs from the 2011-12 fiscal year.
A slideshow presentation, shown before the approval vote, presented by Board of Education Chairwoman Janet Butkus, boasted improvements to the region over the next fiscal year.
The proposed budget calls for an increase of six staff members, improvements to indoor air quality systems, the addition of 35 interactive whiteboards in Memorial Middle School and and facility improvements to Pomperaug High School’s physical science labs.
Butkus pointed to staff, operational and revenue adjustments made by the Board of Education as the reason they had the ability to come in with no increase.
“We weren’t just lucky, the board worked very hard to be able to present this budget to the public tonight,” she said.
The one board member that delivered a ‘No’ vote on the budget proposal, Francis Brennan of Middlebury, voiced his concerns over the budget, saying he felt the board should be presenting a one percent decrease.
“We need to introduce an element of prudence on how we spend our money,” said Brennan. “I would feel very comfortable with a one percent budget reduction.”
Brennan was also concerned over the lack of public participation, saying no one is representing the voice of the public. There was not a single public comment either during the public hearing or the board meeting that immediately followed, and only a handful of citizens were in attendance Monday night.
Butkus said she felt the public was comfortable with the proposed budget and a zero increase, saying she has not seen any emails or letters to the editor streaming in as she has in past years. Brennan said that the board needed to look further than the current year.
“Everyone is content with a zero percent budget this year, but if we live for one year we live to die,” said Brennan. “If the will is there, a one percent reduction can happen.”
Butkus said the board would not entertain the idea of reductions or new figures unless the budget was to fail. If the budget had failed, the board would have gone back into budget workshops to reform the proposed budget figures.
With the approval, the budget will now go to referendum on Wednesday, May 2. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Southbury Firehouse and in Middlebury.