Early on, school budget up .9 %
SALISBURY — The Board of Education is heading into the 2012-13 budget season with a spending plan for Salisbury Central School of $4,845,575, an increase of $43,153 or .90 percent.The proposed budget was discussed at the Thursday, March 1, meeting of the Board of Finance, along with the initial proposed budget from the Board of Selectmen.The major savings come from a reduction in the faculty, with 32 full-time certified teachers, down from 33. Salisbury Central School Principal Chris Butwill said that the school does not plan to fill the position of a full-time teacher who resigned earlier this school year.Other high points of the proposed school budget are increases in the line for a new computer network, and a corresponding decrease in the line for replacing technology.Fuel oil, which is purchased as part of the town’s fuel contract, has been budgeted at $4 per gallon — the same number town Comptroller Joe Cleaveland is using for working on the town’s budget plan.Also in the works for SCS: paving, painting, asphalt replacement, repairing a handball court and replacing the gaskets on a boiler.Finance Chairman Bill Willis congratulated Butwill and Board of Education Chairman Brian Bartram. “You’ve kept this very tight. Are you anticipating any changes?”“No,” said Butwill. “It’s an excellent opportunity [for savings] with the teacher resigning.”At the Monday, Feb. 27, school board meeting, Butwill had a handout with projected enrollments and staffing needs for the 2012-13 school year. Projections are for a smaller kindergarten and first grade — the numbers are a little confusing, Butwill cautioned, because there will be some retentions in the current kindergarten, so not all of the 34 current kindergarten students will go to first grade.In the primary school, the 2012-13 third grade, at 38 students, will be in three sections. All the others grades in kindergarten through five will have two sections.Overall enrollment for the primary and middle school is projected to be down, from 289 now to 282.The projections for Salisbury’s share of the Region One budget — which includes tuition at Housatonic Valley Regional High School, Pupil Services (including special education) and the Regional Schools Services Center (aka the Central Office) — is $3,041,989. This would be an increase of $50,952, or 1.70 percent.The Region One assessment is approved by a six-town referendum in May, Willis noted, and is thus out of the town’s control.Overall the finance board seemed pleased. “This is a budget we can work with,” said Willis.The bottom line of all proposed education spending for 2012-13 for Salisbury is $7,887,564, up $94,105 or 1.21 percent.Municipal budgetThe selectmen’s budget (in its third draft) comes in at $5,048,128, an increase of $99,620, or 2 percent.First Selectman Curtis Rand said an increase of $14,698 in the voter registrar’s line is for “ballots and manpower” for the presidential election in November, and as many as three primaries. Returning to the question of heating oil, Rand said for budgeting purposes the $4 per gallon figure is being used. The town buys the heating oil for SCS, Town Hall, the Scoville Memorial Library and the town garage.Last year the town “came out OK” at a price of $3.38 per gallon, Rand said.Rand said the selectmen are beginning anew a pattern of putting funds aside for big-ticket items such as highway trucks. One new truck is about to be delivered.Nonprofit organizations such as the library, the Housatonic Youth Service Bureau and Women’s Support Services are getting 2 percent increases after four years of no increase. Selectman Jim Dresser said, “I think this is the absolute minimum. At least we’re saying we haven’t forgotten.” (The amount in question is $8,200.)Town employees are also getting a 2 percent raise — except the selectmen, whose salaries are controlled by the Board of Finance.Summing it up, Rand said “We’ll do everything we can not to go higher.”“We appreciate that,” said Willis.Willis said the finance board would create mill rate scenarios prior to the April meetings that finalize the budgets.One factor is the five-year outlook for tuition at the high school. Willis had a handout with projected enrollment at HVRHS through the 2017-18 school year.The current SCS sixth grade will get to the high school in 2013-14, and Salisbury’s share of the high school budget will likely go from about 18.5 percent of the $10 million-plus to about 21.5 percent.For perspective, Salisbury’s share of the high school budget (not the Region One budget) in 2011-12 is 18.8867 percent, covering 95 students out of 503, for a total of $1,894,145 out of a high school budget of $10,029,000.The projected numbers for 2013-14 are 93 students out of 433, for 21.4781 percent, or $2,241,433 out of a $10,435,920 high school budget.The projection continues high for the next two years, with 96 students out of 429 in 2015-16 and 88 of 455 in 2016-17, before falling abruptly to 60 students (out of 424) in 2017-18.The figures came from the Region One business office.Willis said that similar spikes in Region One tuition have hit other towns in the past, and Salisbury had benefited during those years. “Now it’s our turn.”“We have to make the investment now,” Willis said. He proposed setting aside a tenth of a mill — about $115,000 — for the next four years to cover the increased tuition.“This will have an impact this year,” he said.A housekeeping note: Some of the Board of Finance’s meeting dates for April will have to be changed, to accommodate the April 24 presidential primary election and spring break at SCS. The changes will be posted on the town’s website.