The draft 2012-13 Region 14 budget, at $31,329,022, features a 3.58-percent increase, or $1,082,993, more than the 2011-12 budget of $30,246,029.
The board discussed the budget at its Monday, March 5, meeting.
Because the board is still in the workshop stage, the draft amount is not set in stone. At the , the draft budget as proposed by Superintendent Jody Goeler featured a 3.7-percent increase over the 2011-12 budget.
Key Budget Dates
The next Region 14 budget workshop will take place at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 14, in the library.
- March 19: Board of Education approval of the initial budget
- March 26: 6 p.m. budget presentation to town Boards of Finance and Selectmen
- April 2: 7:30 p.m. public hearing
- April 21: Community/Board of Education budget discussion
- May 7: Budget meeting
- May 8: Budget vote
Potential Budget Cuts
Since the first draft 2012-13 budget was presented, the following potential cuts were made, for a total of $1,338,955.
- Building improvements: $387,000
- Textbooks: $35,095
- Fuel oil: $42,999
- Technology Equipment: $253,942
- New staff requests: $197,394
- Current staff and stipends: $264,000
- Transportation (athletics): $15,725
- Professional Development/Curriculum: $41,200
- Furniture: $10,000
- Projected cost of health insurance: $70,000
- Purchased Services: $21,600
Director of Fiscal Services Jim Reese said that in the future, a referendum on a building maintenance project could take place. If the referendum passes, the district would look into bonding for a future project, he said.
Board members George Bauer and Gary Suslavich both said they feel the 3.58-percent increase is still too high.
Reese said that in order to achieve a one percent budget reduction, $302,460 has to be removed from the draft budget.
Bauer expressed concerns on the projected class sizes at Bethlehem Elementary School and , which are at a range of 15 students in kindergarten to 23.7 students in fifth grade. Two class sessions at MES were eliminated, according to Reese.
"I am always in favor of increasing one-on-one contact with students," said Bauer, adding that he is concerned that there will be a significant reduction in one-on-one time.
He said he wants to see future goals for the district fleshed out more and supports Goeler's proposed addition of a new assistant superintendent to work on curriculum.
Past Budget History
- 2006-07: $27,674,688 -- 5.77-percent increase
- 2007-08: $28,950,778 -- 4.61-percent increase
- 2008-09: $29,498,747 -- 1.89-percent increase
- 2009-10: $29,755,701 -- 0.87-percent increase
- 2010-11: $29,723,082 -- Negative 0.11-percent
- 2011-12: $30,246,029 -- 1.76-percent increase
How the Draft Budget Impacts Mill Rates
If this draft budget with the 3.58-percent increase is presented to voters and approved, the changes to the mill rates in the district towns are as follows:
- Bethlehem: An increase of 1.67-percent over the 2011-12 mill rate of 20.67 mils. Projected 2012-13 mill rate: 21.02 mils
- Woodbury: An increase of 5.14-percent over the 2011-12 mill rate of 22.46 mills. Projected 2012-13 mill rate: 23.62 mills
In Bethlehem, if a home were valued at $208,000, the annual tax increase would be $71.88.
In Woodbury, if a home were valued at $350,000, the annual tax increase would be $404.39.
A declining enrollment attributes to part of board member Suslavich's explanations on why he feels the draft budget is too high.
According to the PowerPoint presentation by Reese, the projected 2012-13 enrollment is estimated at 62 students less than 2011-12 enrollment.
Suslavich questioned whether the district really needs to increase staff in the way of an additional psychologist and social worker. He asked for information on what the case load is like for staff and what reduction in outside services the school will realize if additional staff is added into the budget.
"Is it more that we need a reallocation of staffing as opposed to adding staffing?" he said.
Board member John Chapman said he understood Suslavich's question.
"If sacrifices have to be made, are we doing it in the right place?" Chapman said.
Board member Maryanne Van Aken said she supports the inclusion of a social worker at full-time status.
"I think we have a need in our community and we can argue all day whether the school should provide it," she said, adding that the reality is that the support is not being provided outside of school.
Van Aken said the situation is more fuzzy than board members might like to think.
"Kids can't learn if they don't feel safe," she said. "We have some pretty significant issues in some of these buildings."
Duncan McDougall was the lone speaker during privilege of the floor. He said if a child does not feel safe in a classroom, that responsibility falls to the teacher and the parents.
McDougall said the most important thing Region 14 has is its teachers.
"The rest of you, we either love you or hate you or tolerate you," he said. "Now how are we going to get better teachers? What are we going to do that's different than what we've done? Let's try something different when it comes to preparing for the budget."
McDougall said his children received a good education in Region 14 but he knows that more can be done.
The Future of Region 14
Chapman echoed Goeler's statements from the and asked people to think about where they want to be as a district.
"We have work to do on this, before we can present this budget," he said.
"Overall, I will continue to say [that] I think this budget is too high," he said. "We are adding staff at levels where it's too high. A 3.5 percent increase in light of the fact where teachers were generous enough to the citizens of both communities, to take a hard freeze this year -- I find [the budget] difficult to believe in. I think there are areas that can be trimmed."