By John Toole
---- — WINDHAM — The School Board has approved a $45.7 million budget on a split vote.
The action came after administrators trimmed more than $582,000 in proposed spending.
“You asked us to sharpen the pencil. I think it’s a pretty sharp pencil,” Superintendent Winfried Feneberg told the board during Tuesday’s meeting.
The board approved the budget on a 4-1 vote with Dennis Senibaldi opposed.
A report prepared by business administrator Adam Steel said a majority of the decrease was achieved by reducing the number of new positions from 14 to seven and phasing a curriculum staffing realignment over two years.
The budget represents a 1.64 percent increase over this year. It would add an estimated 35 cents to the $23.60 per $1,000 valuation tax rate. The owner of a home valued at $350,000 would see a tax bill increase of about $123.
Still to be determined is whether voters will be asked to fund a new teacher contract. A mediation session is slated for tomorrow.
Steel said the budget would add three critical teaching positions, one each in fourth and seventh grade and a business teaching position at the high school.
Senibaldi asked the board to put off the curriculum staff restructuring for another year, but there was no support for that delay.
He stressed his concern was doing more for students in the classroom.
“I’d rather see teaching type positions,” Senibaldi said.
Board member Jerome Rekart questioned whether the issue of new positions should be put before voters as a separate warrant article, but Feneberg warned against that and there was no support from the board. Feneberg said such an action splinters the budget process, while board member Stephanie Wimmer said it could limit decision-making by next year’s board.
“I’d rather keep this in the budget,” Wimmer said.
A public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 17 at Windham High.
The deliberative session will be Feb. 7, also at 7 p.m., at the high school.
Voters will get their say on the budget at Town Meeting on March 11.