FAIRFIELD — Residents from the four towns comprising School Administrative District 49 approved sending the school board’s proposed $26.5 million annual budget to the June 12 ballot.

During the Tuesday night meeting, which was a day after Fairfield residents approved the $5.2 million budget at Town Meeting, roughly 50 residents came for a meeting that lasted about half an hour.

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 6.5 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 five 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.

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.

All 18 article items in the budget were approved during the swift meeting, with no contentious moments or debate occurring. There was only one clarification question asked by a Fairfield resident during the meeting about equipment costs. All items were approved unanimously except for the lone written ballot, which was about allocating money to the state’s Essential Funds and Services model. Of the 50 ballots cast, 41 residents approved allocating more than $2.5 million, and nine residents voted against it.

Some of the larger line items in the budget include more than $10 million for regular instruction, more than $4 million for special education, more than $4 million for facilities maintenance, roughly $1.6 million for transportation, and nearly $1.5 million for school administration.

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 state subsidies that 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.

Residents in the four towns now will vote on whether to approve the budget in the June 12 referendum.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis


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