Region 9 school board trims proposed budget
Last week, the board presented a budget of $16.3 million, a 5.75 percent increase over this year.
For Redding, that means a 2005-06 cost of $9.16 million. The figure is a significant drop from the 7.25 percent increase rejected by Redding and Easton voters.
"We're squeezing, no doubt about it," said Region 9 Chairwoman Judy Shapiro on Wednesday night. "But we understand that the voters told us the budget was too high and we want to be responsive to them."
With student enrollment at Joel Barlow High School growing to 1,012 students next year, a new science teacher and a new special education teacher have been kept in the budget request, allowing for manageable class sizes and no program cuts.
Transportation costs increased by $11,503, and special education costs are up by $74,316, both figures that cannot be changed.
But more than $100,000 was cut in actual spending with three resignations and two retirements by the teaching staff.
"Many of those positions opening up paid at a higher level than we'll be going out for in new salaries," Shapiro said.
Superintendent Allen Fossbender noted $1.99 million in debt service is included for building projects in 1999 and today's high school building project. Operating expenses for the school in the new $16.28 million figure represents only a 3.29 percent increase.
"The magnitude of the cut shows how deep the Board of Education has gone into the (operating) budget," Fossbender said Thursday . "I hope the new figure is successful in the second referendum. If not, I fear there will be dire ramifications to the school's program."
Redding voters rejected the Region 9 budget on May 3 by 55 votes, with a 30 percent voter turnout. Easton rejected the school's budget by 286 votes. Region 9 incorporates both towns.
Steve Ward of Redding said he voted against the budget because "school budgets are totally out of control" and said money spent on renovations for Joel Barlow High School needs to be closely watched.
Bob Platt, a Redding father of two school-age children, said he voted against the budget because "there is too much misappropriation of funds. The Barlow project was a total disaster and still is."
But 957 Redding voters supported Region 9's budget and school board members hope they will come out for the second budget vote and be joined by more residents.
Chris Hocker, a 12-year Redding resident and father of two children, was among those approving the budget.
"This year both the town and Region 9 held down a level increase when you don't count the debt service for Joel Barlow," said Hocker.
No date has been set for the second referendum on the Region 9 budget.
Staff writer Heather Barr contributed to this article.
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