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Newport Tax Rate May Fall

Newport — With higher tuition revenues and no projected increase in spending from this year, the proposed $17.8 million school budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 would reduce the school tax rate by 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, SAU 43 Business Manager Chuck Stuart told the School Board and Budget Advisory Committee last night.

Stuart presented revenue estimates that dramatically increase the tuition Newport receives from Croydon and Goshen-Lempster for students those districts send to Newport High School. The increase would more than offset the estimated $286,000 drop in adequacy aid from the state and $20,000 loss in vocational tuition.

Though state revenue would fall by $300,000, local revenue would jump $560,000 for a net revenue increase of $253,476.

Stuart, who is in his first year as business manager with the district, said his tuition estimates are based on more accurate enrollment figures than have been used in the past.

“Do you (estimate tuition) with the intent of increasing the fund balance or reducing the tax rate,” Stuart said. “I’ve always believed it is better to not underestimate because the taxpayer benefits.”

When revenues exceed estimates, the money becomes part of the fund balance. It is either returned to the taxpayers in the form of a lower tax rate, or the district can seek voter approval to spend it.

On the expense side, Stuart said the district got hit with a $200,000 increase in its contribution to the state retirement system and is looking at an 8 percent increase in health insurance costs. But reductions were made across the board to counter those increases.

The most significant savings came in the area of personnel, Stuart said. Five teachers are retiring and only two will be replaced at a lower cost for salary and benefits.

“Because of declining enrollment, three of those positions won’t be filled,” Stuart said.

Superintendent Irwin Sussman said the district saw a decrease of 40 students from last year to this year with the total enrollment dropping from 972 to 932.

There are also reductions in the budget for speech, psychological, nursing and occupational services. Guidance services, which will allow for a guidance counselor in each school, is up $113,000. Debt service is down $74,700, or 8 percent. The board will hold a public hearing Thursday and then adopt the budget for the deliberative session next month.

Two collective bargaining agreements are also expected to be ratified by the board and placed on the warrant for the vote in March.

The current school tax rate is $15.30. A 50-cent reduction would reduce annual school taxes on a $150,000 home by $75.

In other business, the board appointed Linda Wadensten to replace former chairman Howard Shultz, who resigned last month because he took a job out of state.

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