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Redding costs to rise, even under smaller Region 9 school budget plan

March 4, 2019

REDDING — Unlike most other school districts, the Region 9 school board is considering a lower budget than the previous year.

At $24.2 million, Superintendent Thomas McMorran’s proposed budget for next school year is about $35,000 less than the current spending plan — a 0.14 percent decrease. Special education and personnel are again the biggest costs.

Though the budget is lower overall, Redding residents will see an increase based on next year’s enrollment figures since Easton and Redding split costs proportionally based on the number of students each town has enrolled at the high school.

Region 9’s budget covers Joel Barlow High School and a third of central office, sharing that expense with Easton and Redding.

Next year, Redding will have just over 57 percent of the student population and Easton will have just under 43 percent. This means that even if the budget doesn’t increase at all, Redding will have to pay $550,000 more and Easton will pay $580,000 less than the current year.

The biggest portion of the budget is general instruction at about $8.49 million. This makes up 34.9 percent of the budget and includes faculty and staff.

This figure isn’t much different from the current budget, though the actual functions of the employees might be a little different.

“We’re trying to rearrange current staff at no cost to create a math support lab,” McMorran said.

He said the high school has reduced staff and faculty to correspond with declining enrollment for years, but doesn’t plan to make any changes to the number this year because there will be 11 fewer students. He said the staff reductions will most likely happen next year instead when there will be 40 fewer students.

Nearly 15 full time positions were reduced since 2013. In that time the student population decreased by 204 students.

McMorran worries there might have to be more layoffs in the 2020-2021 budget if the governor’s proposal to shift the costs of the teachers’ pensions from the state to the localities. He said Region 9’s share would be about $91,000 next year, with it more than doubling the following year.

“If that happens then the consequence will have to be fewer course offerings and larger class sizes because we’ll have to lay off even more staff,” he said.

The next biggest portion of the budget is special education at $4.85 million, or 20 percent of the budget.

McMorran said the district has been able to save about $500,000 in special education, which is the principal reason for why the budget didn’t increase. The district saved money because students aged out of the 18-21 bracket, which means the district no longer has to provide those services, and more students returned to the district with a new program, called “bridges,” that started in August.

The program sets aside a special room at the high school with its own entrance and special equipment. A special education teacher, behavioral technicians, the speech and language teacher and the Board Certified Behavior Analyst work with the students in this program. McMorran said it helps students who wouldn’t normally be able to go to school, including those who can’t be around too many people.

Through bridges, he’s seen students that were coming to school only about 20 percent of the time now have attendance rates above 90 percent.

“The program has been very positive,” McMorran said.

The first budget workshop is 7:30 p.m. on Thursday at Joel Barlow High School.

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