Initial Proposed School Budget Up 2.98%

November 29, 2013
by Barbara O’Brien

Members of the Windham School Board got their first public view of the proposed 2014-2015 school district operating budget earlier this month, but they didn’t appear surprised by the increase.

According to SAU 95 Business Administrator Adam Steel, next year’s proposed operating budget shows an increase of 2.98 percent over the current year’s default budget of $43,486,224.  The school board’s proposed budget for the current 2013-2014 school year failed to obtain a majority of the votes cast last March, resulting in the enactment of the default budget.

The proposed operating budget for next year currently stands at $44,831,018; an increase from the current year of $1,344,794 (2.98 percent).  There are not, however, any current teacher or instructional aide contracts in place.

As currently proposed, the operating budget for next year would have a tax impact of 64 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation.  This translates into an approximate tax increase of $224 on property assessed at $350,000.  This increase does not include any separate moneyed warrant articles or any warrant articles being put forth on the town side of the ledger.

The reasons for the increased proposal include a slight increase in required state retirement contributions by the school district, an increase in student transportation costs (two new buses), technology upgrades, more instructional aides due to an increase in students on Individual Education Plans (IEPs), and 14 new proposed staff positions.

The 14 proposed new staffing positions include:

  • A half-time preschool teacher (Special Education)
  • An additional secretary at Golden Brook Elementary School
  • A half-time guidance counselor at Golden Brook Elementary School
  • A fourth-grade teacher at Windham Center School
  • An increase in secretarial hours at Windham Center School
  • A seventh-grade position at Windham Middle School (math/language arts)
  • An intervention math teacher at Windham Middle School
  • A special education case manager at Windham Middle School
  • An increase in secretarial hours at Windham Middle School
  • A business education teacher at Windham High School
  • A cable television production coordinator/teacher at Windham High School
  • A half-time student transition coordinator (Special Education) at Windham High School.
According to Superintendent Winfried Feneberg, the proposed teaching positions are budgeted at a bachelor’s degree (Step 2) level, except for the special education and guidance counselor jobs, which are budgeted at a master’s degree level.

“How many of these positions are really needed?” school board member Dennis Senibaldi wanted to know.  “I don’t think we need 14 (new or expanded positions),” Senibaldi said.  “It’s excessive.  It’s way over the top.”  “We all need to work as a team to come up with a budget,” school board Vice-Chairman Stephanie Wimmer cautioned.  “I want something that will pass,” Senibaldi continued.  “A $1.3 million increase won’t pass voters,” he said.  “I prefer teachers over other staff or administrators,” he stated.

School board members will continue to work on the proposed school operating budget for next year at their next meeting on Tuesday, December 3.  The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. and will be held in the Community Development Building next to Town Hall.  Public comment is always permitted.