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Board To Vote On 2 Percent Hike To Joel Barlow Budget

The cost of running Joel Barlow High School for Easton and Redding residents is expected to rise by about 2 percent next school year.
The cost of running Joel Barlow High School for Easton and Redding residents is expected to rise by about 2 percent next school year. Photo Credit: File

EASTON AND REDDING, Conn. – The joint Easton and Redding school board that oversees Joel Barlow High School will vote Tuesday night on a proposed 1.95 percent increase in the school’s funding for the 2013-14 school year.

Head of School Thomas McMorran initially proposed a total budget of more than $22.5 million for the school year, an increase of 2.17 percent. But the Region 9 Board of Education asked McMorran to cut $40,000 to $50,000 from that request to bring the increase under 2 percent.

“The board felt that such a small reduction in their request was fiscally prudent and very possible without harming the education of students at Barlow,” Board Vice Chair Mark Lewis said in an email.

The proposal included the 3.1 percent increase in teacher salaries as stipulated by the union contract. It also would hire three new staff members: a special education teacher, a behavioral therapist and a school security staff member. It also includes money for extra training for teachers and administrators related to the state’s new evaluations system.

The request also includes suggested improvements to the school security. It plans to renovate its front lobby to include a security desk to go with the video surveillance systems at entryways already installed at the school. The proposed new security guard would be stationed at the new desk, but McMorran told the board that the existing guards could be rotated into the job instead of a new hire to save money, according to the minutes of the board’s latest meeting.

McMorran’s proposal already includes a few reductions from last year, including more than $45,000 less in debt repayments. The plan also includes a few cuts to the school’s drama department, including cuts to the stagecraft curriculum due to low enrollment and a $2,500 reduction from the spring drama production’s materials budget.

Some board members suggested these areas to save money: eliminating most of the $25,000 set aside for the board’s rotating capital reserve, canceling the board’s membership in the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education to save the $3,000 in dues and eliminating the installation of a videoconferencing system for the school. McMorran was asked to come back with other suggestions Tuesday.

Redding’s share of Barlow’s enrollment is expected to go up again next fall, so the town’s portion of the budget will go up more than Easton’s portion. If the reductions go through, Easton’s taxpayers would take on an additional $15,274 in costs, an increase of about 0.15 percent. Redding’s share would go up $414,814, or 3.48 percent.

The Region 9 Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the final budget Tuesday starting at 7 p.m. in the Joel Barlow Library Media Center. The request would then go to the two towns’ voters May 7.

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