REGION 4— The Region 4 Board of Education last week approved a $17,776,120 budget for 2013-2014, an amount that represents an increase of $269,907, or 1.54 percent, over the current appropriation.
The budget that funds the operation of Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School is reduced by $275,532 in anticipated income for a net budget of $17,500,588 that is assessed the taxpayers of Chester, Deep River and Essex based on the number of students from each town attending the two secondary schools. The net budget billed to taxpayers is up by $235,655, or 1.36 percent.
Essex continues to pay a larger share of the net budget, with enrollment data showing Deep River paying more in 2013-2014 while the Chester assessment is down by nine percent. With 465 students attending the two secondary schools, Essex is assessed a 46.18 percent, or $8,801,772, share of the net budget. The Essex assessment is up by $379,885, or 4.93 percent, in the proposed budget. With 297 students attending the two schools, Deep River is assessed a 29.49 percent, or $5,160,924 share of the proposed budget. The Deep River assessment is up by $281,854, or 5.78 percent.
But the changes in student average daily membership have given Chester taxpayers a break for next year. With 245 students attending the two schools, Chester has a 24.33 percent, or $4,257,893 share of the proposed budget. The Chester assessment is down by $426,084, or 9.1 percent.
A large portion of the total $275,532 spending increase is directed to salaries for professional staff after district teachers received an average 3.9 percent salary increase under a three year contract approved in December. The only new position in the budget is a special education para-educator position at the middle school at a cost of $25,990.
The budget plan was approved by the Region 4 board at a March 7 meeting on a 7-1 vote, with board member Mario Gioco of Chester opposed. Gioco, a Republican elected to fill a vacancy at a December 2011 town meeting, said he had asked at the first budget workshop session last month for a breakdown of the number of students in each class at the high school, including half credit courses.
Gioco said information provided by Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy and Principal Kristina Martineau showed averages for the number of students in the various classes. “The averages don’t work for me, I can’t get a handle on it,” he said.
Other board members said they were satisfied with the information provided, while Levy said she felt “micromanaged,” by the request. Martineau said gathering all the data for each class was time consuming, adding that she found the request “disturbing and insulting.”
The proposed Region 4 budget will be presented at the annual budget hearing, set for April 1 at 7 p.m. in the library/media center at John Winthrop Middle School in Deep River. The budget goes to the voters of the three towns in a 12 noon to 8 p.m. referendum on Tuesday May 7.