FAIRFIELD — The school board for School Administrative District 49 on Thursday night accepted the proposed $26.5 million budget from the district’s finance committee.

At a regular meeting, board members voted 10-1 to advance the finance committee’s proposal. The only board member in opposition was Ned Caverly. Residents of the four towns comprising SAD 49 will have a chance to hear more specifics about the budget at an April 24 workshop at 7 p.m. in the junior high school.

The proposed budget is nearly $327,000 more than the $26.2 million budget from the current academic year, and represents an increase of about 1.25 percent. Initially, Superintendent of Schools Dean Baker had proposed an increase of 6.6 percent, though that figure was lowered to 2.5 percent. The finance committee later slashed that to an increase of slightly more than 1 percent. To make the cuts, the committee was directed to delete two teaching positions. Before the meeting, Baker said the budget was “close to being flat” and will result in an overall tax decrease in two of the towns in the school district — Albion and Fairfield — and a tax increase in Benton and Clinton.

Baker said the towns with increases were based on “relative increase in valuations in those towns.”

Board Vice Chairwoman Jenny Boyden said when Baker’s initial proposal came before the finance committee, the members knew that was more than they could support. She said multiple factors served as cost drivers, including anticipated increases to salaries of over $500,000, increases to health insurance of over $500,000 and increases to special education of $550,000. There were items that shifted the budget as well, namely the state changing the way it funds vocational schools. Boyden said unlike in the past, the state now will fund vocational training, so the district was able to take that out of the budget as well as projected revenue.

Boyden said the student population shrunk by 75, so the committee was proposing eliminating five teacher positions. She said these positions were planned to be phased out through attrition and no layoffs were planned. Baker said at this point, there are no planned retirements that he knows about, but he said they expect normal turnover.

Boyden said the committee was able to reduce costs in other places, by deferring some maintenance projects such as roofing and window replacement and eliminating the purchase of some new technology items. She said additional subsidies from the state the district received over the summer were put toward reducing the tax commitments in the supporting towns, and about $200,000 was put into an unassigned fund balance.

The board is scheduled to hold a budget workshop April 24. On May 15, there will be a district budget meeting, and the towns will hold the budget referendum on June 12.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

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