Following a lengthy discussion Wednesday night on a range of budget items, the Board of Education agreed to reduce next year's proposed school budget by $289,000.
The reductions were made following the board's request last week to administrators to reduce Superintendent Susan Viccaro's $35.58 million 2013-2014 budget by $300,000.
Although the reductions came up just shy of the board's initial request, board members appeared willing to consider additional reductions at next week's meeting, which will be the board's last before sending the budget to a public hearing in April.
The board has spent the past month reviewing Viccaro's budget proposal, which initially called for an increase in school spending of 4.39 percent.
The most significant reduction proposed by administrators — $75,000 for a building utilization study — was rebuffed by the board after members said postponing the study would delay future reductions based on declining student enrollment.
"Any implementation of that is going to be a long term process, 3-5 years before we get some plans in place," said board member Robert Fulton. "I think it's imperative that we embark on that as soon as possible."
Reductions to the budget approved by the board Wednesday include the elimination of a science teacher at Memorial Middle School due to a retirement ($67,587), $50,000 for furniture and the elimination of a proposal to hire three interns at a cost of $38,400.
Savings were also found in lower tuition costs paid by the district for students attending Thomas Edison Magnet School ($31,308), the elimination of a science position at Coginchaug High School ($15,553) and the board's decision to hire three tutors instead of six proposed under Viccaro's budget ($29,000).
The board spent a significant amount of time discussing class sizes and increasing special education costs, and although no specific budget reductions were made, Amy Emory, District 13's Director of Pupil Personnel, was asked to reduce her budget.
"There's some very costly things there and I think that might account for why we expend more per pupil in our [District Reference Group] than a lot of the other towns," said board member Merrill Adams.
"I think that's where some of it is and I don't know what we can do about it," she said.
The board will consider additional recommendations to reduce the budget at next week's meeting on Wednesday, March 27 at 7:30 p.m. at Strong Middle School.
Superintendent Proposes 3.27 Percent Increase in School Spending
2013-2014 Proposed School Budget Summary
No Changes Yet to $35.58 Million School Budget
BOE Asks Administrators to Cut $300K from School Budget
Check back with Patch for additional coverage of the 2013-2014 proposed school budget.