FREEPORT — The Regional School Unit 5 Board of Directors identified six budget priorities for fiscal year 2012 and will formally begin its budget process on Tuesday, March 22.

Superintendent of Schools Shannon Welsh said the proposed priorities are estimated to cost $625,000, but “are not new tax dollars.”

Welsh said at a Feb. 16 board meeting that the priority areas include technology, capital investments, increased teaching positions, athletics, curriculum materials and adjustments to student and professional work time. 

Capitol investments of $80,000 would include the purchase of two buses, a pick-up truck, roof repair, floor replacements, kitchen equipment and office and parking lot expansion.

In technology investment, Welsh said there is a need for computers for teachers in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. The proposed $95,000 increase would also fund an annual payment for high school student laptop computers, network upgrades, increased technician and data management time and a student information system.

Since more Durham students are attending Freeport High School, enrollments are increasing and more teachers are needed. The additional teachers and support are estimated to cost about $260,000.

High school Principal Bob Strong said the increased enrollments have created crowded classes and in order to reduce class sizes additional teachers are needed in the core content areas – science, social studies, English and math. The goal is to include half-time core content teachers, a half-time math strategist for grades 7-12,  a half-time high school guidance position and a high school educational technician.

For curriculum materials, Welsh said $85,000 would be needed to add two  Advanced Placement courses over the next two years and introduce a new science curriculum for high school freshman. The money would be used for textbooks and literacy support materials.

An increase of $25,000 is proposed for a phase-in plan for booster-sponsored athletic teams and a uniform replacement program. And, depending on what the board decides to do with student instructional time and professional work time, it could have little financial impact or could cost up to $260,000.

By using $528,000 in stimulus funds, tuition money and contingency funds, most of the proposed increases can be offset, Welsh said. The initial net budget increase would be $117,000.

Administrators are still in the process of finding reductions, adjustments and other items that could impact the budget, she said.

“Although it’s an increase of $117,000, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will result in a tax increase,” Welsh said.

In other business, the Use of Time advisory committee presented a draft 2011-2012 calendar to the board. It recommend elimination of early release and late arrival sessions in order to increase student learning time.

The panel also proposed adding two teacher days, with the intention to add more in the future, if it’s financially feasible. This addition will replace some of the professional learning time lost as a result of the first recommendation.

For more about the recommendations from the committee, visit the RSU 5 website to view their draft calendar. Public feedback is encouraged by Friday, March 4, and can be sent to [email protected].

The budget process will begin with detailed presentations on Tuesday, March 22, and Wednesday, March 23. There will be public budget meetings on Monday, Feb. 28, at 6:30 p.m. at the Durham Community School cafeteria; Tuesday, March 1, at 6:30 p.m. at the Pownal Elementary School cafeteria, and Monday, March 7, at 6:30 p.m. in the Freeport Middle School cafeteria.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext,. 110 or [email protected]

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