Bethel-area school district budget passes by wide margin

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Jun. 16—BETHEL — Voters in Newry, Bethel, Woodstock and Greenwood overwhelmingly approved the School Administrative District 44 budget for the coming school year.

The budget, at $12,782,982, is up $389,450 over the current year, or an increase of 3.14%.

Tuesday's vote was 625 in favor, with 160 votes against.

In Bethel, voters passed the budget 383 to 93; Newry, 57-16; Greenwood, 77-17; and Woodstock, 108-34.

As passed, the budget has increased for most departments, with slight decreases in spending for student and staff support and for career and technical education.

The largest increase is for regular instruction, with the budget at $5,436,111, or $166,102 over the current fiscal year. Special education spending is up $53,173, system administration is up $25,007, transportation is up $32,688, and facilities maintenance is up $90,847.

Bethel taxpayers' share of the fiscal 2023 budget will be $3,600,612, or $232,353 more than the current year. In Greenwood, the share will be $1,205,566, an increase of $50,123. In Woodstock, the increase is $76,591, at $1,650,743. Newry taxpayers' share will be $3,426,342, or an increase of $184,265.

The total increase to local taxpayers for fiscal 2023 is $543,332, a figure higher than the overall budget increase. That increase in the local share is based on a reduction of nearly $400,000 in state aid. According to Superintendent David Murphy, that reduction is due to increases in local property valuations which exceeded the state average.

According to a mailer sent to residents of the district's four sending towns in May, the increased budget does not fully represent increases in costs for energy, fuel, insurance and salaries. To partially offset those increases, "other components of the proposed budget were reduced and an increased amount of carryover funds were committed to it," according to Murphy's message to taxpayers.

Voters also voted to continue the budget validation referendum process for another three years.

For more information on the budget, go to sad44.org.