ATHENS — Residents on Tuesday night approved a $2.08 million school budget that, smaller overall compared to last year’s, includes a roughly $30,000 new cost that school board members said is necessary to accommodate the medical needs of a single student, but also the elimination of two educational technician positions.

About 15 people attended the special town meeting at the Athens Community School to approve the budget.

The budget is down from the 2015-2016 budget by less than 1 percent; but because of losses in state funding, residents are being asked to contribute an additional 7 percent in school taxes — the fist tax increase since Athens withdrew from Madison-based School Administrative District 59 in 2013.

“I can’t say the tax rate won’t go up, but there are other things that should help minimize it,” said First Selectman Mark Munn, who was in the audience Tuesday. “Probably every town faces the same problem when their valuation goes up and the amount of funding from the state goes down.”

For a small independent school such as Athens, which enrolled about 120 students last school year, the effect of the loss of funding can hit harder than in some larger districts.

The district originally was looking at a $322,000 shortfall from the state in March, which forced residents to scrap a $350,000 borrowing plan for road paving and cut in half the amount to be raised for a paving reserve account at Town Meeting.

In the school budget, the board eliminated a full-time educational technician positions and a part-time one and budgeted less money for a school van that is used to supplement a school bus in meeting student transportation needs.

One resident at Tuesday’s meeting, Jessica Franzose, expressed concern about the loss of the education technicians. “It may very well (effect the classroom), but it’s a cut we deem necessary,” Linkletter said.

Lisa McClintock, a special education technician at the school, also expressed concern about the change in transportation and said residents are wondering whether the district is planning to eliminate transportation for high school students, who have school choice and attend schools out of the district.

Kevin Jordan, superintendent of Alternative Educational Structure 94, of which Athens is a member, said that while the district is not required to transport high school students they have no plans of ending transportation arrangements with those schools. It is possible that bus routes will change, but it hasn’t been figured out yet, he said.

In added costs, the school is transitioning from a one-day-per-week school nurse to a full-time nurse to accommodate a student with diabetes, Linkletter said. The change will add an expense of about $30,000 to the budget.

“We don’t have a choice. If it’s something a student needs, we have to provide it,” Linkletter said.

“There are some side benefits too,” school board member Gene Hay said. “She’s already done a lot of health education with the middle school students.”

In the last item of Tuesday’s meeting, residents approved a non-exclusive tuition contract with Dexter-based School Administrative District 46. The contract establishes a tuition rate cap for high school students who are attending school out of the district. The cap will be set at $7,500. In the past, Jordan said, Athens has funded out-of-district tuition rates of up to $8,500.

“It gives the board more of a buffer against tuition costs that are skyrocketing,” he said.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm


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