In a show of support for New Milford's schools, the Board of Education has approved a $60.21 million proposed budget for 2013-14.
In a Jan. 31 vote of 6 to 1, with two members absent, the board approved the full amount proposed by Superintendent of Schools JeanAnn Paddyfote.
The $60,214,148 budget would represent a 4.62 percent increase from the current fiscal year.
"We don't know where this budget will go," said Board chairwoman Wendy Faulenbach. "If we do get drastic cuts, we will be making an impact on the system that I will not be proud of. We will be going backwards."
The sole vote against the proposal came from board member David Lawson. He argued for the elimination of pay-to-play for sports activities and to add one full-time social worker at the high school.
The budget would increase pay-to-play from $75 to $125 -- a one-time, annual student fee to participate in most of the sports.
New Milford High School now has two social workers.
"One social worker to every 700 students at the high school is not acceptable," Mr. Lawson said. "I hope we don't have more than one crisis on any given day."
"I will support the budget as approved by the majority of the board members," he added, "even though I don't feel it is fully meeting the needs of our district."
Board member William Wellman was absent for the vote, but said he felt the budget should be "returned to the superintendent for cuts to bring the increase to zero."
Mr. Wellman said the economic situation has not improved for many members of the community and has worsened for others.
Board member Thomas Brant also was absent from the meeting.
The $2.65 million increase would break down as a 3.79 percent increase in operating expenses and an additional $473,115 increase in capital expenses.
A total of $100,000 in the capital budget would be undesignated, leaving money to be used for security enhancements still to be determined.
Five school security guards would be included at a cost of $112, 500 -- one for each of the three elementary schools and one each at Sarah Noble Intermediate School and Schaghticoke Middle School. They would be stationed at the schools' entrances.
The security guards would not fill the same role as the two school resource officers supplied by the police department, Dr. Paddyfote said.
Other factors in the budget proposal would be increases to the medical insurance account of $1.87 million; the special education account of $345,902; and non-certified salaries of $151,794.
State-mandated, common core standards for education and for teacher and administrator evaluations also drove the proposed budget increases.