Windsor School Budget Passes in a Squeaker  

Windsor — Two votes made all the difference last night for the Windsor School District as the controversial $9.15 million budget narrowly passed, 179-177.

School Board Chairwoman Amy McMullen said she was stunned when she heard the tally read shortly after 7 p.m. In light of the tight vote, school officials know that they have plenty more work to do in appealing to the concerns of Windsor residents, many of whom were not happy with the deep cuts included in the upcoming school year’s budget, McMullen said.

“It passed, but at the same time, we know there are a number of people who are not happy,” she said. “So, we need to address their concerns.”

Windsor’s school budget included $1.2 million in cuts to programs, supplies and staff. The staff reductions, which will affect 12 positions, include eliminating three paraeducators, two support staff members, a nurse, a social studies teacher and kindergarten teacher, school officials said. The drama program will also be cut, though plays and performances after school will continue.

Yet, even with all those sacrifices, the school budget is still 2.4 percent higher than the current year’s.

The district has been running annual deficits of around $400,000 over the past several years. Dwindling enrollment, increased health benefit expenses and rising special education costs have added to the budget strain, McMullen said.

Yesterday, McMullen surveyed voters at the polls to get a sense of their concerns. Last night, she said she had not had a chance to look at the results, but would turn her attention to it as soon as she’d had a night to recover from an exhausting day.

“I said, ‘Amy, just relax tonight,’ ” she said. “Tomorrow, I will look over everything and see what I’ve got.”

If someone requests a recount and the budget vote is overturned, then the School Board must set to work crafting a new budget to bring back to voters. If there’s nothing in place by the end of the fiscal year, the district will have to operate on 87 percent of its current budget, which could force an additional $1 million in cuts, Windsor Southeast Supervisory Union Superintendent David Baker told the Valley News in previous interviews.

On the town side, the proposed general fund budget of $4.5 million passed easily, with 354 casting ballots in favor to 195 voting against. Next year’s budget is an increase of $487,506 from the current fiscal year. The tax impact is rather small, however, resulting in little more than a penny increase to $1.16 per $100 of valuation. That translates to a $23 increase in municipal taxes on a $200,000 home.

All other articles passed, as well, including a bond article to borrow up to $2 million for town water and sewer system repairs.

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