BERLIN – Residents will have a chance to speak on town and school funding for fiscal year 2018-2019 at a hearing later this month after the Board of Finance approved the budgets Tuesday night.
“We made some amendments,” said Brian Benigni, Superintendent of Berlin schools, Tuesday.
The finance board approved a $43.9 million school budget, a nearly $1 million reduction from the initial proposal. The decision was previously tabled to give Benigni and the school board more time to reduce the budget.
Benigni said he was able to find nearly $1 million in employee health insurance savings which brought the budget from a 4.3 percent increase over last year to 1.99 percent.
“I appreciate all the hard work that’s gone into it,” said Gerry Paradis, finance board member.
He said he was originally looking to cut up to $125,000 more.
Matthew Tencza, president of the school board, warned the finance board of further cuts that could impact staffing and classes.
“I think the superintendent put together a responsible budget,” he said. “We did the right thing and will continue to do the right thing.”
He added the school budget decreased overall by close to $2.8 million from earlier proposals.
Reductions include two teachers at the high school and one teacher at the elementary school. The budget also includes the addition of an elementary school teacher, due to increased class sizes, and the future hiring of a security director for the district.
“I think we should send it to the people,” said Mark Holmes, finance board member.
A $45.4 million general government budget was also approved by members of the finance board. The budget is a reduction of more than $3 million from the Acting Town Manager’s proposal.
The budget includes several capital improvement projects as well as a $5.1 million increase in bonding to include the turf replacement of Scalise Field, along with resurfacing of the high school track and town door repairs.
The finance board also agreed to include support for Sunday hours at the library and four part time positions within the town for a total of $54,000. The positions were requested but taken out of the manager’s budget early in the process.
The water control budget was also put forth by the finance board for a total of $6.3 million.
The overall estimated tax increase for an $250,000 average valued house will be $292, a 5.2 percent increase.
The school and town budgets will be voted on separately on Tuesday, April 24, after the annual budget hearing on Tuesday, March 27, at 7 p.m., at the high school.