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Shaker Regional school budget receives approval

Chairman of the Belmont town budget committee, Ron Mitchell, left, and former Belmont Town Administrator Don McLelland, Sr. joked about their age during the Shaker Regional School District held its annual meeting at Belmont High School on Friday, March 7, 2014.  McLelland is currently running for Selectman.

(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

Chairman of the Belmont town budget committee, Ron Mitchell, left, and former Belmont Town Administrator Don McLelland, Sr. joked about their age during the Shaker Regional School District held its annual meeting at Belmont High School on Friday, March 7, 2014. McLelland is currently running for Selectman. (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

A $21.05 million operating budget breezed to approval last night in Belmont, where voters adopted the Shaker Regional School District’s proposal with no discussion.

The budget is up $141,353, less than 1 percent, over the current year’s budget.

“This is a Kodak moment,” Ken Knowlton of Belmont said after the vote. “It’s nice to not have to stand up here and wonder why something costs as much as it does.”

Increases in the district’s spending – including an 11 percent increase in health care costs – are offset by decreases in special and alternative education costs, legal fees and savings from a switch to a consumer-based insurance provider.

“We looked at everything. We took our time,” Heidi Hutchinson, school board chairwoman, said after the meeting. She said the board has tried to keep any increases to the operating budget below 2 percent.

“When it came back at 0.73 percent, we were just so pleased with it,” she said.

The budget includes $121,500 for adoption of a reading curriculum for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Taxpayers in Belmont and Canterbury, the district’s two towns, will see their taxes increase. In Belmont the change is minimal, about 4 cents more per $1,000 of assessed property value. In Canterbury, the tax rate will go up 10 percent, from $14 per $1,000 of assessed value to $15.45. The larger increase in Canterbury is linked to a loss of $17,976 in Adequate Education Aid, which is distributed by the state based on a formula that factors in the number of students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch and special education, among other things. Belmont is expected to receive $25,000 more in aid next year.

Also, Canterbury will need to raise $16,119 more in statewide property tax next year, while Belmont will have to raise almost $90,000 less based on the assessed value of total taxable property.

The warrant included a ballot vote on the budget, but a motion to eliminate the words “by ballot” was overwhelmingly approved. Residents then approved the budget with a majority vote.

Voters also approved a $50,000 appropriation to the School Facilities and Grounds Expendable Trust Fund. The money was taken from an unreserved fund balance, meaning there is no change to the tax rate.

(Iain Wilson can be reached at 369-3313 or iwilson@cmonitor.com.)

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