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Approximately 30 residents attended the Deep River, May 7 budget hearing to hear Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy and Board of Finance Chairman Ed Eckenroth present the school and town spending proposals for 2019-’20. The combined $18,139,700 proposal represents a $583,061 or 3.32 percent increase over current spending.
The budget will go to vote on Monday, May 20 at a town meeting which will take place at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall, 174 Main Street. Immediately following that meeting, the Board of Finance will set the new mill rate.
The budget hearing was held the same day as the Region 4 Board of Education budget vote and the “Town Report Card” meeting which was held by Tri-Town Youth Services at the Lace Factory at the same time.
Levy who was giving the budget overview for the last time, because she is retiring in June, explained some key drivers of the budget including the fact that there are high health care costs and it is the first year of the new teacher contract that has affected all the board of education budgets in the district, which serves Chester, Deep River, and Essex.
Deep River’s portion of the Region 4 budget, which was adopted at referendum on May 8, is $7,131,909, a $448,331 or 6.71 percent increase. The total Deep River Board of Education budget, which covers Deep River Elementary School, is $5,264,280. It represents a 1.32 percent increase over the budget approved last May.
The largest slice of the budget is salaries and benefits which accounts for $2,783,493 or 52.88 percent of the budget. Deep River’s portion of the Supervision District budget based on Average Daily Membership (ADM) is $1,978,040 or 38 percent of the budget. Fixed costs make $378,644 or 7.19 percent and discretionary costs account for $124,103 or 2.3 percent of the budget.
Levy explained there are 10 teachers in Deep River Elementary School who have been there for more than 19 years, which places them at the highest pay grade, which is more than $80,000. She also explained that in regard to declining enrollment, Deep River is seeing some leveling of number of students.
She praised the town for its outstanding students, pointing out that this year’s Valley Regional High School valedictorian is from Deep River.
“It is evident that what we are doing here in this town with education is working,” Levy said. “We should be proud of what we have accomplished. This is a K-12 effort.”
She added, “We believe this is a responsible, transparent budget that meets the need of our students and provides educational excellence.
Following Levy’s presentation, Eckenroth reviewed the town’s $5,703,647 2019-’20 spending proposal, which represents a $66,379, or 1.17 percent, increase in spending. Eckenroth explained that although the proposal increases spending, the town plans to draw from its unappropriated town surplus general fund to keep the mill rate flat at 29.42.
First Selectman Angus McDonald noted that this is the third year in a row that towns have had to prepare their budgets based on projections for the state budget, which is not complete at this time.
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