Rain
49°
Rain
Hi 54° | Lo 45°

Newport Holds School Budget Flat

Newport — The proposed school district warrant adopted by the School Board last night in a 5-0 vote includes a $17.8 million budget and a one-year teachers’ contract.

The 10-article warrant will be presented to voters for possible amendments at the deliberative session Feb. 5 before the annual school district vote on March 12.

The budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 does not increase spending from the current year, but school officials were uncertain last night of the tax rate impact.

In his presentation of the budget, SAU 43 Business Manager Chuck Stuart said he was “confident” of his projections for an increase in tuition of about $560,000 but less certain of his state and federal aid numbers.

“I don’t have much confidence in these at all,” Stuart said about adequacy and catastrophic aid. “We will have to wait until spring to see what kind of revenue we get.

“The important part is that the bottom line is level-funded from the current budget.”

Stuart later said that with uncertainty surrounding the revenue numbers, it is “very difficult to come up with a tax rate impact.”

Last night’s meeting was virtually unattended by members of the public.

Budget highlights include a $200,000 increase in the district’s contribution to the state retirement system and a $255,000 increase in health insurance.

These were offset partially with five retirements. Some positions won’t be filled and two will be filled at a lower cost. A trend of declining enrollment — there are about 40 fewer students this year than last — was part of the reason for the reduction in staff.

Superintendent Irwin Sussman said the personnel reductions would not compromise the quality of education or the services needed for every student. He pointed to an increase in guidance counselors so that every school has its own and the addition of a technology director as two examples of where the administration focused resources on specific areas.

“We really tried to assess what the needs of the students and to give them the best opportunity to succeed,” Sussman said.

The proposed total increase of $65,639 in the teachers’ contract for one year would give teachers a “half-step increase,” Stuart said.

It would add 16 cents to the school tax rate.

A second proposed one-year contract increase of $29,353 would give a similar pay raise to support staff and would add 7 cents to the tax rate.

Article 6 through 10 would allow the district to use any surplus from the end of the current fiscal year for emergencies or add to reserve funds for transportation, maintenance, special education or field purchase. If voters rejected all the articles, any surplus would have to be used to lower the estimated tax rate.

Among the items in the budget that are projected to decrease are vocational education ($21,000), nursing services (($23,176), psychological services ($41,273), speech services ($57,000) and library media services ($45,541).

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at ogrady56@yahoo.com.