MADISON — Residents voted Monday night to give preliminary approval to a $9.99 million school budget and also approved the addition of another member to the board of directors of the local school district.
The proposed budget, which will need final approval in a referendum next Tuesday, June 10, represents a 3.4 percent decrease from the current budget, although local taxpayers are being asked to contribute slightly more money.
About 100 people gathered at Madison Area Memorial High School for a town-meeting style gathering in which they voted on 17 lien items in the budget. There was considerable discussion surrounding cuts to staffing and educational programs, including the elimination of four teaching positions in the district.
Three teachers who are retiring will not be replaced, and a high school math teacher has been laid off and will be replaced with a middle school teacher.
“We believe everything we did was fair,” said Todd LeRoy, superintendent for School administrative District 59. “There is always a little bit of pain when there are cuts, but this is a budget that we believe will be sustainable in the future.”
Other cuts in the district include the layoff of a custodial position, reductions in hours for some cafeteria workers and the change in hours for an administrative assistant from full-time to half-time.
A speech pathologist in the special education department who is retiring will not be replaced. The district is also cutting about $50,000 in funding for materials and travel, including the elimination of field trips, said LeRoy.
The proposed $9.99 million budget represents a reduction from last year’s $10.08 million package, but it means raising property taxes by $38,000 in local money, which LeRoy attributes to a cut in funding from the state.
The additional impact on local taxes translates to an increase of $8 on a $100,000 home.
Also discussed at Monday’s meeting were two significant changes to the structure of the district in the coming year — an addition of another member to the school board and an administrative change for the high school principal.
For the past year, the superintendent has also served as the high school principal, but for the 2014-2015 school year Madison Junior High School Principal Bonnie Levesque will act as an interim principal for grades 5 through 12.
Before the budget meeting, residents voted 62-46 in a special town meeting to increase the number of school board members from six to seven. The change is anticipated to bring greater diversity to the board and lead to more student-centered decisions and will go into effect July 1.
“I believe it’s in the best interest of our school district to go in that direction,” said LeRoy. “The more people you have, the more likely it is that the board will produce student-centered decisions because there is a greater diversity of opinions.”
The change in configuration of the board comes in the wake of several communities withdrawing from the district, reducing the number of directors from an 11 member board in 2011 to the current six.
School boards are traditionally an odd number because odd numbers make it easier for decisions to be made on action items, preventing ties or hung juries, said LeRoy.
Under the new board, each member will have one vote and will serve a three-year term, with elections taking place on a staggered basis.
In July the board of selectmen will appoint an interim director to serve one year until a full-term board member is elected in town elections in June 2015.
Board members are paid $10 per meeting, and the estimated cost of adding a board member is not more than $200 per year, said LeRoy.
The budget referendum will be held from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday, June 10 at the Madison Town Office.
Rachel Ohm — 612-2368 | firstname.lastname@example.org