Durham’s registrar of voters ordered extra ballots for today’s Regional School District 13 Budget Referendum. The town is expecting a larger turnout than usual thanks to a new proposal for all-day kindergarten and to a 3.27 percent increase in the school budget.
The turnout at last night’s final budget presentation by the Regional School District 13 Board of Education at Coginchaug Regional High School, however, was less than impressive.
The on the school budget drew a fairly good crowd but as it was officially impossible for the board to make any changes on election eve, the few who attended the May 7 meeting were there mostly
to show their support or wax political.
“I really support ,” said Debbie Golschneider of Durham, a former Board of Education member who was speaking from the audience for the first time in about 12 years. “Anyone who thinks it’s glorified daycare has absolutely no idea of what’s required.”
“I think it is wise to implement it now on our own terms,” Goldschneider added, noting that most people expect the state to make all-day kindergarten an educational requirement at some point in the not too distant future.
Although most people in the audience were familiar with the particulars, Regional School District 13 Board of Education Chairman Thomas Hennick kicked off the meeting with a quick overview of the for 2012-2013.
The school district's proposed gross operating budget for 2012-2013 is $35,981,819, which represents a 3.43 percent increase compared to last fiscal year. The net district budget (after estimated receipts) amounts to $34,089,930, or a 3.27 percent increase.
In addition to all-day kindergarten, some of the other new initiatives include the hiring of part-time math and literacy tutors to provide individual or small group assistance to students who need a hand, and there are plans to upgrade the district’s web site and to implement a new technology program.
How much each town will have to pay this year has changed a little since last year’s budget, too. Overall enrollment has been declining and that trend is expected to continue. However, it’s been declining at a higher rate in Middlefield than in Durham.
The number of Durham students enrolled in District 13 declined from 1,356 in 2010 to 1,329 in 2011. In Middlefield, student enrollment dropped from 709 in 2010 to 681 in 2011.
Accordingly, Durham will pay a higher share of the costs for the coming fiscal year, with tax payers in Durham footing 66.12 percent of the bill while Middlefield will cover 33.88 percent of the school district budget.
So where is the bulk of the money going? Salaries, which account for 57 percent of the overall budget, are the single biggest line item followed by benefits, which make up 18 percent. District 13 School Board Member Jeremy Renninghoff said he'd like to have seen more reductions in spending, but salaries and benefits are subject to collective bargaining and state laws, which makes those costs impossible to cut at the local level.
Whether the proposed budget will pass is now up to voters. Polling will take place today at Middlefield Community Center and at Korn School in Durham from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m.