CLARENDON — The Mill River school district isn’t expecting any big budget shake-ups and says a few students from the closing Black River school will help revenue.
Mill River Unified Union School District (MRUUSD) consists of Mill River High School and the elementary schools in Clarendon, Wallingford, Tinmouth and Shrewsbury. Superintendent David Younce said in a Tuesday interview the budget process for the coming fiscal year has only just begun.
“The best case for this, it would be great to have the board approve a budget before the New Year, that way we can get cranking on all the stuff we need to do for Town Meeting,” said Younce. “Realistically, it’ll probably be the second or third week of January before we get something for official board approval.”
The district board will meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the high school library to hear from its Finance Committee, which Younce said has been looking at the budget since about October.
Younce said the district is currently waiting to hear from the state Department of Taxes on some key financial figures that it will need in order to know what impact the budget will have on the tax rate.
“We know that health insurance has gone up 12.9%,” said Younce, adding that in the six years he’s been with the district he’s seen health insurance up as high as 11%, making this a somewhat large increase. “Those costs just continue to outpace us.”
It’s expected that increase will be offset somewhat by students from Black River High School in Ludlow, which will close after the current school year.
“Those kids from Black River are all kind of going off in different directions, and the best estimate we’ve got is probably 20 kids from Black River are coming over to Mill River, and those students will be tuition students so they’ll bring tuition money with them so to speak, so we do project a revenue increase that’s going to help offset the health insurance piece a little bit,” Younce said.
Interest rates on a bond voters approved in March are also lower than expected, saving the district $168,000 so far, said Younce.
Between savings, added revenue and cost increases, and making some assumptions about what the tax department’s figures will be, “Right now we’re looking at expenditures going up by 4.51% overall,” said Younce. “If we make assumptions about tax rates and that type of thing, we’re looking at about a 2.49% tax rate increase for the taxpayer.”
He said the current education tax rate is $1.57.
“I suspect the state is going to give us numbers that inflate the number I just gave you,” he said. “We’re not looking at reducing any staff at this point in time, so it would probably be nibbling around the edges is my best guess.”
Tammy Heffernan, chairwoman of the MRUUSD, said the district is still early in the budgeting process and it’s not unusual to be waiting on the state for figures at this stage. Staff cuts aren’t expected, and there doesn’t appear to be any major expenditure the board needs to account for.