Hebron Dollars & Sense
- Created on Monday, 11 February 2013 20:46
- Written by David Huck
Hebron school board seeks 2.3% hike for next year
Published: Monday, February 11, 2013 11:46 AM EST
HEBRON — The Board of Education has forwarded a $12.16 million budget proposal for 2013-14 to the Board of Selectmen.
The spending plan represents a 2.33 percent increase, or $277,138, over the current year’s $11.89 million plan. It is up slightly from the $12.15 million budget proposal that former Superintendent of Schools Eleanor Cruz presented in December. Her plan sought an increase of 2.2 percent, or $262,037 in more spending.
The difference between the two plans is mainly from adjustments for insurance, the teachers contract, and a change in the formula used by the state for tuition reimbursement.
The budget was approved in a 6-1 vote, with Amy Lynch-Gracias opposed, citing the effect of the economy on residents’ ability to pay.
Rising health costs have been the biggest hurdle, Acting Superintendent Kathryn Veronesi said. Over the last two years, health costs have climbed 40 percent, adding close to $350,000 more next year. Liability insurance, meanwhile, is expected to go up 10 percent.
If it weren’t for the increase in the health costs, the budget would call for less spending than the current year’s plan, school officials say.
Enrollment is expected to decline by 67 students, or around 7 percent, to 871 students.
With that in mind, the board approved eliminating a bus, despite an objection from one resident who feared long bus routes for students. School officials say that the decline in enrollment and the number of parents who drop their children off will save around $23,000.
But Veronesi said having more children on a single bus could become troublesome, as that’s where the majority of the disciplinary issues occur. Each bus will have around 58 children. School board Chairwoman Kathy Shea noted that there are currently buses riding around “half empty.”
Board member Dominic Marino floated the idea of creating “neighborhood” schools, which he said might help cut down on transportation costs.
“We are realizing that we can’t do the budget year by year at this point,” Veronesi said. “The demands of the economy and decreasing enrollment are going to change the way we make decisions in Hebron.”
Veronesi called the neighborhood concept a possibility and also talked about turning Gilead Hill into an “early childhood center.”
To help attract better-qualified substitute teachers, the board also voted to increase the daily rate for substitutes from $70 to $75. It is the first increase in six years and puts the pay more in line with surrounding school systems.
As for contractual obligations, teachers are set to receive a 1 percent wage increase and 1.8 percent step increase next year under a contract negotiated in 2010. Administrators will receive a 3 percent increase, while non-union employees are set to receive a 2.5 percent increase.