PLYMOUTH - The Board of Education has revised its proposed 2017-18 budget a second time, bringing the current total down to a 2.27 percent increase over the current year.
The board voted to adopt a version of the budget last month with a 2.87 percent increase, but voted again for the new version.
In January, Superintendent Martin Semmel first presented a budget with a 2.56 percent increase, which was raised in February to account for higher than expected health care renewal and pension costs and some trims in early retirement, utility and high school extracurricular activity costs.
The current proposal is for $24,455,080, or $542,289 over the current year, said Phillip Penn, district business manager.
The reduction was partly due to teachers taking advantage of a retirement incentive the district offered, which will save about $116,000, said Penn. “We had a total of eight retirements, one of which we had already included the savings in our budget, so it really reflects seven additional salaries saved.”
He praised “the principals in terms of helping everybody out in their decision making, and the union leadership for also making sure if anybody had questions they were steered to the right place.”
Additional savings came from postponing for one year a planned school facilities study, as well as a community outreach program, he said.
The original idea was to do a study of how the school buildings should be used for the next five years in light of decreasing enrollment, he said. “In effect, if you wanted to end at the same place you now have a four year horizon to work with, but in light of that I think we could probably push that out another year.”
Two board members voted against the new budget, with opponent Christopher Goodwin saying he thought they shouldn’t wait to do the facilities study. Potentially closing a school can be an emotional topic so the more time to discuss it the better, he said.
“We don’t know what the review is going to say,” Penn noted. “The review may say you should restructure within the four schools in terms of where the grades are, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to close a school.”
In January, Semmel’s overview showed that 80 percent of the overall budget increase is driven by health care and staff contract requirements.
Budget priorities include $66,726 to restore the school resource officer, $45,000 to replace Chromebook laptops to keep the ratio of one per student in grades six through 12, $32,000 to add a part-time Spanish teacher at Terryville High School to establish a five-year Spanish program, and $25,000 for an energy consultant to continue the district’s energy savings program.
There is $48,900 more allocated for special education, which is mostly due to the anticipated cost of special ed outplacements.
There will be a town-wide referendum on the school and town budget together in May.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.