June 06, 2020

Official defends his budget> SAD 22 superintendent takes aggressive stand

HAMPDEN — Richard Lyons, the superintendent of schools in SAD 22, is willing to ask voters to raise close to an additional $1 million in local share money over last year’s amount to meet a proposed $13.6 million operating budget for the 1996-97 school year.

For much of this week, Lyons and the SAD 22 school board’s budget committee are taking a long, hard look at the proposed budget, which features an overall $832,846 increase over last year.

On Monday night, during the first of a weeklong schedule of budget committee meetings, some school board members got their initial look at Lyons’ proposed budget. On Tuesday night, committee members and board members began looking a little closer at the facts and figures.

Of the $13.6 million bottom line, a total of $5.9 million would be raised through local share money — an amount $996,323 higher than last year’s local share amount.

“I think this budget is based on needs that we have within the district,” Lyons said. “We need to acknowledge a growing enrollment. We need to address the student-teacher ratio in our secondary school. This is truly an aggressive budget, but it meets our needs.”

A big reason for the 20 percent increase in local share money is because the state’s latest funding formula stipulates that district voters must approve $3.3 million in local allocation for the state to chip in its share of $6.4 million. The local allocation increase ordered by the state is a whopping $1.1 million increase over last year, while the state’s allocation is increased only $38,600 over last year.

Lyon’s request for additional local share money is only $2.3 million, a total that is actually $100,000 less than last year’s request.

Any cuts in this proposed budget would have to come out of the additional local share money, Lyons said.

“[The state funding formula] is just one of the dilemmas we’re facing,” Lyons said. Another dilemma, the superintendent added, is there won’t be a $200,000 surplus to carry over, like there was for last year’s budget from the sale of the district’s school buses in 1994-95.

Lyons’ proposed budget also features some big ticket items, the largest of which is $159,000 that would be earmarked for the addition of six teachers at Hampden Academy.

Hampden Academy Principal Robert Rowe told committee members that since 1991 the high school’s enrollment has grown from 612 to a projected figure of 746 next year. The school, which would have a 14.8-to-1 student-teacher ratio without the additions, has seen no increase in faculty during that same time, Rowe added.

The education committee recently endorsed the addition of the six teachers, but stopped short of endorsing the administration’s recommendation of where those teachers should be placed. That issue will go back to the education committee for further discussion.

“We need those teachers at the high school, but I’m not sure if they’re needed in the areas we discussed here tonight,” said board member Martha Harris.

Board member Kurt Hoffman added, “It would be nice to hire six teachers. It would be nice to hire 10 teachers or 12 teachers to make the student-teacher ratio lower. But how do we want to use our money the most effectively?”

Already, an additional $256,000 of the budget will have to go to pre-negotiated raises for district teachers.

While committee members and board members got into an in-depth discussion over the scenerio in which any new teachers might be placed, board member Joe Watson finally “cut to the chase.”

“I just want to get to the bottom line — what we can sell to the communities,” Watson said. “From everybody I’ve talked to about this budget, they think I’m crazier than hell.”

The committee will take an even closer look at the budget at 7 tonight, at the Reeds Brook Middle School. It is still unknown when the committee is expected to send the budget to the full board for approval.

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