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OK'd budget adds 7 teachers, pre-K

The Royalton-Hartland School Board has adopted a proposed $23.1 million budget for 2007-08 that allows for seven new teachers and a half-day universal prekindergarten program for the first time in district history.

Voters will have the chance to approve or reject the proposed spending package from noon to 9 p.m. May 15 during the annual budget vote and School Board elections. The vote will take place in the Roy-Hart High School gymnasium on State Street.

School Superintendent Paul J. Bona Jr. said Monday that the budget represents a $1.3 million increase in spending -- a 6.07 percent increase -- over the current $21.8 million district budget.

The proposed increase also would increase the amount of money to be raised through district property taxes by $319,257 next year, making the levy go up from $8.72 million this year to $9.04 million next year. The "full value property tax rate" would rise by about 34 cents per $1,000, to a rate of $24.13, compared with $23.79, Bona said.

The budget increase was made possible in part by an expected $771,902 increase in state aid for the next school year, Bona said. The district received $11.52 million in state aid this year and anticipates getting $12.37 million in 2007-08.

After having to cut 13 teachers two years ago and hold a tight line on spending last year, Bona said, it was nice that the board had a little wiggle room this year to make some academic improvements without having to increase taxes much.

The district will add a prekindergarten program with four half-day sessions: two in the morning and two in the afternoon. Bona said the program, with 72 pupils, is already filled up.

He also said the board has added seven professional positions to the budget to help bolster the district's academic programs. It calls for the addition of a science teacher who will split time between the middle and high schools, a remedial mathematics teacher who will split time between the elementary and middle schools, a mathematics teacher at the high school, an elementary school teacher, a prekindergarten teacher for the elementary school, a half-time remedial reading teacher at the middle school, a half-time career counselor at the high school, and a computer technology integration specialist to work in both the elementary and high schools.

That will raise the number of professional staff from 147 to 154, Bona said.

Operational costs that prompted the board to increase spending include a $439,708 increase for employee salaries and a rise in overall personnel costs from $9.73 million to $10.71 million. Increases include $55,030 for health insurance premiums and $25,000 for district contributions to the state Teachers' Retirement System.

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