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January 19. 2014 9:40PM

Windham residents debate school budget

WINDHAM — A small crowd of residents gathered inside Windham High School Friday night, eager to get answers to their questions about next year’s proposed $45 million school budget.

The public hearing was the final chance for residents to speak their piece before the Feb. 7 deliberative session.

Voting on the budget and other items will take place March 11.

District business administrator Adam Steel said the 2015 budget represents a 1.64 percent increase over the current year’s budget, which would result in a tax impact of 35 cents per thousand dollars, or $123 for a resident with a home valued at $350,000.

Steel attributed the increase to a proposed restructuring of the dean curriculum for grades six through 12, the addition of one more school bus, and seven new or expanded faculty and staff positions.

“Keep in mind that 70 percent of our budget is tied up in salaries and benefits,” Steel said on Friday, noting that an additional 10 percent of the budget is attributed to special education services.

According to Steel, the seven new or expanded positions would cost an estimated $331,000 next year, while the dean curriculum realignment would cost $107,000.

The new or expanded positions include a half-time preschool teacher, an additional fourth-grade teacher at Windham Center School, a high school business teacher, a middle school seventh-grade teacher, a half-time television production coordinator at the high school, an expanded secretarial position at Golden Brook School and a math interventionist for elementary levels.

Superintendent Winfried Feneberg said the curriculum realignment encompasses six dean positions at the high school, with those individuals’ duties to be expanded to serve the middle school populations.

“We looked at the future needs and decided this was the direction we needed to go in,” Feneberg said.

A guidance director for grades K though 12 is also included in the plan.

“Our thinking was to integrate all our guidance services and programs under one director,” Feneberg said, noting that all seven of the new positions would be year round.

“So they’re primarily becoming administrators,” he added.

Resident Bob Cool noted that replacements for the aging cafeteria tables at Golden Brook School had been discussed during previous budget seasons but had yet to come to fruition.

Steel said he expected the tables to eventually be replaced, though that project would likely be brought forward from money taken in through the food service department, which is self-funded.

Cool also questioned the budgeted $600,000 increase in technology equipment.

Steel said last summer’s evaluation of the entire district computer network identified “several areas of weakness” in the district’s technology infrastructure and updates would be necessary in the coming fiscal year.

Resident Barbara Coish questioned the half-time secretarial position slated for Golden Brook School, noting the need for a full-time addition.

“To me, half time is not enough,” Coish said. “We need another full-time person in that office. What can we do about that?

“This budget is really a reflection of our administrative staff trying to look at all the places where we can make do with minimum,” Feneberg told her.AGuilmet@newstote.com


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