WOODBURY – There was a look of relief on the face of Region 14 Director of Finance and Operations Wayne McAllister as he entered the Woodbury Senior Community Center just after 8 p.m. Tuesday.
As he made his way through the doors, Board of Education Chairman Janet Morgan had just received word that the margin of “no” votes in Bethlehem were not enough to counter the margin of “yes” votes in Woodbury.
While Woodbury voters were in favor of the 2019-20 Region 14 budget – and its 3.92% increase – by a 709-552 edge, Bethlehem voters were against it by a 274-210 count. With the budget passing by an overall vote of 919-826, McAllister didn’t have to crunch additional numbers delete any line-items to carve out a new budget-proposal before Thursday.
“I’m just glad the public listened to why the budget number was where it was at and understood that the renovation project drove the budget this year,” Morgan said. “(Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Olzacki) did the best to keep the programs for our students because that’s what’s most important in play. We just want to move forward and give our kids the best education we can.”
The $35,319,886 budget has the highest lift since a 4.9% increase was approved for the 2013-14 school year. The 2019-20 operating budget will see a 1.193% increase, which is below the 10-year average. The remaining 2.724% increase is due to the debt service due on the $26-million high school renovation project.
Last year, voters rejected then-Superintendent Dr. Anna Cutaia’s request for a 2.37% budget increase, and then voted to approve a 1.95% hike in the schools budget.
There will be some staff reductions in the 2019-20 budget. Region 14 will lose three positions: Director of Human Resources in the Central Office, a classroom teacher at Mitchell Elementary School, and a classroom teacher at Woodbury Middle School. The position of Library Media Specialist position at Woodbury Middle School will also become part-time.