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Petition seeks to rescind SB2 in Mason School District

MASON — This may be the last year residents in the Mason School District make their decisions at the polls, as a petition warrant article seeks to do away with ballot voting and switch to a district meeting for review of the warrant.

When the Mason School District left the Mascenic Regional School District in 2010, voters decided to adopt a SB2 format, which allows residents to decide on warrant articles and the school budget at the same time they submit their votes for school officials during ballot voting in March. Instead of a district meeting, in which residents can amend the financial amounts articles call for and vote on them, the district holds a deliberative session to present the articles and then residents vote on them in March.

The Mason School District’s deliberative session is scheduled for Saturday at 9 a.m. District clerk Becky Partridge declined to identify the Mason citizen who submitted it the petition calling for the district to do away with the ballot voting and begin to use a district meeting model.

Mason School Board Chair Bob Hemmer said the School Board has not discussed the issue of whether or not to support a switch to a district meeting. So far, he said, the SB2 system has worked for the district. He noted the town of Mason uses a Town Meeting format, and some residents may prefer that format for the school district as well.

The budget for the Mason School District came in this year below both last year’s approved budget and the potential default budget for the upcoming year. The total proposed operating budget for the upcoming year is $2,976,896, which is nearly $4,500 less than the budget approved for the current school year.

If voters fail to adopt the proposed budget, the default budget is $2,978,615, which is $1,719 more than the budget proposed by the School Board.

One of the largest drops in the budget is in the area of regular education. According to a breakdown of the budget available on the district’s official website, the overall budget for education programs has dropped by $56,111. Few students being sent out of district for high school this year account for the decrease, as the district will be spending $100,349 less than in 2012 in tuition fees.

“That is the major contributor to the fact that we’ve been able to keep the budget down,” said Hemmer. The drop was attributed to 14 fewer students being sent out of district this year as compared with last year. “The class size and enrollment is smaller, but that could change over the course of the year,” Hemmer said.

That decrease is offset by a nearly $40,000 increase in in-district program costs, mostly attributed to increases in retirement and insurance, as well as a two percent salary increase for teachers, as well as an additional day of physical education that will be offered in the coming year.

The budget for the school’s reading specialists has also gone down, from $33,996 in 2012 to $24,360 this year, according to the budget. The reduction is due to the reduction in Title I teacher’s hours, so the school will only have a Title one teacher for three and a half days a week, based on funding reductions.

The School Board is also recommending the adoption of a warrant article that would add $10,000 to the already-established capital reserve fund for educating children with disabilities, which would be funded from the unreserved fund balance and not from taxes.

The voters will also decide whether to authorize the district to retain up to 2.5 percent of the net assessment for the current year as unassigned General Funds. The fund balance could be used to reduce taxes or for unanticipated emergency situations as approved by the state Department of Education.

The deliberative session for the Mason School District will be held at the Mason Elementary School on Feb. 2 at 9 a.m.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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