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Big School Cuts Proposed for Windsor

Windsor — Voters at Town Meeting will be faced with voting on a school budget that will end years of deficits but cost as many as 12 jobs district-wide.

The Windsor School Board voted unanimously on Monday to slash about $1.2 million for the coming fiscal year, which begins in July. About $950,000 of that will come from laying off between 10 and 12 faculty and staff members, according to Windsor Southeast Supervisory Union Superintendent David Baker.

“I think, given my experience, that it’s a fairly extraordinary phenomenon this year in Windsor,” said Baker, who has several decades of education experience and was chosen last month to permanently lead the supervisory union that covers the town.

Baker said that generally a board would make smaller-scale changes, but after several years of operating on deficits of around $400,000 a year, lagging enrollment numbers and increasing health benefit figures, the school board made a large move to right the ship.

The layoffs will include administrative, clerical, support staff, paraprofessional and instructional roles, Baker said, though those spending the most time with students will be looked at last. Some of the firings may be accomplished through attrition, he said.

The district will begin notifying those slated to be laid off in the next couple of weeks, Baker said.

Amy McMullen, the school board chairwoman, said that both teachers and taxpayers needed to be considered in the board’s decision.

“We have to look at providing the best education services possible, and also take consideration into the ability of our townspeople to pay (taxes),” McMullen said. “And all of our townspeople want the best education possible for our kids, but we also have to look at reality.”

The proposed budget carries with it a tax increase of about 7 cents, to $1.39 from $1.32, Baker said. For a house assessed at $200,000, that increase would lead to about $140 more in annual taxes.

The budget itself went up to $9.15 million, a 2.4 increase over fiscal 2013, even with more than $1 million in cuts.

“It’s really sad that you cut that much and still have an increase in your overall budget,” McMullen said.

The remaining cuts, which total approximately $250,000, came from non-personnel roles, Baker said, during which the board looked at curbing field trips, slicing the money allotted to general supplies and downgrading the district’s funding for technology programs.

However, because declining enrollment — especially at the high school level — has become such a notable issue, the superintendent said students will still be well-served, even if voters pass the budget and the district’s funding shrinks by more than $1 million.

“As we make these reductions, I think we’re still going to deliver quality programming,” Baker said.

Jon Wolper can be reached at jwolper@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.