After listening Monday to a handful of residents speak at the district public hearing on Region 12's proposed 2010-11 schools budget, the Board of Education set a budget figure of $20.8 million.

That budget would represent a 1.1 percent increase over the present year's figure.

"I was one of two people who preferred the .7 percent increase budget that (Superintendent of School) Dr. (Bruce) Storm initially proposed," said board member and Finance Committee chairman Valerie Andersen, "but once I got into the numbers, I now support the 1.1 percent increase."

Dr. Storm had presented a budget proposal of $20,709,545 in February.

Yet when parents and students responded in outcry of concern about potential loss of art and advanced placement classes, the board upped the number to $20,792,885.

Washington parent Peter Bowman told the board Monday, "I'm one of the taxpayers who is happy with this budget. I appreciate the board increasing the budget. I'm happy to support it."

Roxbury resident Gary Lord said he wished the board had kept Dr. Storm's proposal and believed him when he'd said no programs would be adversely affected. He also chided teachers for not forgoing a 4.5 percent pay raise for the third year in a row.

"This budget represents a $278,000 increase to the town of Roxbury," Mr. Lord said. "It's going to be difficult for Roxbury taxpayers. So many people in our town are under-employed, self-employed contractors trying to get by in a housing market that has had the bottom drop out. Please consider the taxpayers."

Board of Education chairman Jim Hirschfield said the board decided it was "important to maintain (academic) programs" and the budget was "program driven, not personnel driven."

He added the board appreciates the need to keep the budget low "but, if we're going to attract students to the school, we have to keep the programs in place."

Fourteen non-tenured teachers were given non-renewal letters by April 1.

Dr. Storm said with the uncertainty of the budget passing in the May 4 referendum, "I have chosen to notify all 14 non-tenured teachers" as the state requires if jobs can't be guaranteed for the coming school year.

He noted some of those jobs may not be lost once a budget is approved.

A $2.3 million bonding package for repairs to the three elementary schools will also on the May 4 referendum. First selectmen in Roxbury, Washington and Bridgewater are all in support of the bonding.

The annual district meeting on the 2010-11 budget is scheduled May 3 at 7 p.m. at Shepaug Valley Middle/High School.

The meeting will be adjourned to May 4's referendum from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.