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Town Meeting preview: First Branch Unified District’s budget plan dips as cost per pupil grows

Published: 5/19/2021 11:26:51 PM
Modified: 5/19/2021 11:29:02 PM

Hot topic: The warning for the First Branch Unified District’s annual meeting contains only seven articles, all of them straightforward. The budget will draw the most attention, as residents of Chelsea and Tunbridge, the district’s two towns, twice voted down budgets last year before finally approving a spending plan in October, well after the school year had begun.

Budget: The proposed budget of $6.85 million is $41,000 lower than the current school year’s spending plan, but because enrollment is projected to decline slightly, the district’s cost per equalized pupil, a measure that determines its tax rate, is projected to increase by 4.3%. The education tax rates will increase more modestly, by about 2.5 cents per $100 of assessed value in Tunbridge, and by a little less than 3 cents per $100 in Chelsea. Most residents will pay education tax on their primary residences as a percentage of household income, and that figure is projected to increase from 2.59% this year to 2.73% next year.

The coming year could be the last for the district’s operation of separate K-8 schools in Chelsea and Tunbridge, as the district is working on a restructuring plan that would make Tunbridge Central School a K-4 school for both towns, while Chelsea Public School would become a middle school for grades 5-8. That plan, which would take effect in the fall of 2022, would enable the district to consolidate resources and save money, key goals of the merger.

Contested races: Barring a last-minute write-in campaign, there are no contested races. School Board Chair Kathy Galluzzo, of Tunbridge, and Vice Chair Susan Kay, of Chelsea, are up for reelection to three-year terms, both running unopposed.

When and where: First Branch will hold two informational meetings, one in person at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Tunbridge Fairgrounds, and one online at 6 p.m. Monday, May 24. Voting by Australian ballot is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 25, at Chelsea Town Hall and Tunbridge Town Hall.

— Alex Hanson




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