By Erin Post

Voters on Town Meeting Day approved an $11.2 million budget for Harwood Union Middle/High School, as well as a $75,000 allocation for a capital reserve fund.

However, the school will have to wait until another time to repave the horseshoe-shaped bus loading area in front of the building.

Voters shot down the $80,000 article by 30 votes: 1,390 to 1,360.

The school budget--which carries a spending increase of about 5.8 percent--passed by a vote of 1,713 to 1,060. School officials have said that much of the spending hike included in the budget can be attributed to special education costs, some of which are reimbursed by the state.

An article to allocate $75,000 to a capital improvements and facilities maintenance reserve fund was approved 1,745 to 1,002.

School principal Duane Pierson said he's satisfied that the budget is "fiscally responsible," and that it also meets the needs of students. The board worked collaboratively with the staff and the public on the budget, he said, a process that allowed for multiple opinions and feedback as the spending plan came together.

Regarding the article to repave the bus loading area, Pierson said the proposal may be something the school returns to as part of a larger, more comprehensive package to address outdoor facilities and school grounds.

"We need to go back and take a long-term approach," he said.

Although a plan to revamp the school's athletic fields has been delayed this year, the board may opt to return to the issue in the future, Pierson said, and present a proposal to voters along with other outdoor improvement projects.  

According to information from the school, the $11.2 million budget is expected to increase the average assessment across the six towns served by Harwood Union by 3.5 percent.