REGION 4— Voters of Chester, Deep River and Essex approved the $18.37 million district education budget for 2014-2015 on a 319-253 vote in an eight-hour referendum Tuesday. The budget that funds the operation of Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School won voter approval in two of the three district towns, but was rejected by Deep River voters.
The vote in Essex was 191-60 in favor of the budget. Chester voters approved the budget on a 59-37 vote. In Deep River, where a higher share of the budget is expected to lead to a 0.85 mill hike in the tax rate, voters opposed the spending plan on a 156-69 vote. The 66-vote margin for approval was much closer than last year, when the budget was approved on a 274-145 vote.
The $18,377,431 budget represents a $601,431, or 3.38 percent, increased over current spending. The total budget is reduced by $297,447 in anticipated revenue to a net budget of $18,079,984 that is assessed taxpayers in each town depending on the number of students from the town attending the two secondary schools.
The net budget is up by $579,395, or 3.31 percent. Each town had an increase in the Region 4 budget share, but Deep River had the largest increase of $442,063.
Board Chairman Chris Riley of Essex said he was hoping for better turnout, but is pleased the budget was approved. “While the turnout in Essex this year was a bit of a disappointment, I am pleased the Region 4 budget had been approved, he said. “Throughout our process of budget workshops, careful evaluation, and difficult decisions, our board has worked to balance the needs of students with being fiscally responsible to the communities we serve.”‘
Voter turnout for the annual referendum has been low and decreasing in recent years, but the total three-town vote of 572 was up from a turnout of 419 voters last year. A total of 619 voters participated in the 2012 referendum.