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Mahar sees 2.7% budget hike request

ORANGE — The Mahar Regional School’s new superintendent would like a 2.7 percent budget increase for next school year.

A public hearing on the budget request will be held on Tuesday in the school’s Library-Media Center at 7 p.m. The spending plan, presented by new Superintendent Tari N. Thomas to the School Committee earlier this month, would total $12,055,791.

Teachers’ salaries and a new transportation contract take up a large portion of the increase, with smaller items making up the difference. About $432,600 more than this year is proposed to cover the 1.5 percent in negotiated teachers’ raises. There is also $40,507 planned for a new hire: a certified teacher to comply with Chapter 222, an unfunded state mandate to keep students in school and immersed in learning while receiving suspensions. The mandate will take effect July 1.

About $9,000 is earmarked for new Statistics Course text purchases and Google email archiving. Another $25,768 covers increases in the new busing contract.

Although inflation has boosted spending in most areas, there are a few areas where costs have come down. The first is a decrease of $57,398 for power due to the new electricity contract with Direct Energy. Thomas also pointed out a $105,906 reduction in health insurance costs because the new Medex rates have dropped.

Overall projected income for the year is $6,706,727. This is up $104,809 and is a combination of state aid and assorted local income sources. That leaves $5,349,064 to come from the district’s member towns.

Committee Chairman Peter Cross pointed out at this month’s meeting that the original budget proposed had been cut by $65,000. He also said the increase is not much considering the school has 13 more students. When asked about School Choice funds for the upcoming year, Thomas said she has only planned for roughly $800,000 income from out-of-district student tuition, ger reasoning being that Fiscal Year 2016 teacher salary increases are set for a 3 percent increase and looking ahead it makes sense to limit spending now to save for that increase.

If approved by the committee after the hearing, the proposed budget will go to the town meetings this spring. According to Orange Town Clerk Nancy Blackmer, three out of the four towns served by the school (New Salem, Orange, Petersham and Wendell) will need to approve the budget for it to be set.

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