Board to vote on school budget cuts

The Board of Education is poised to pull out its pruning shears tonight and make some cuts to the school budget.

The board will be meeting at 7 p.m. tonight for a work session at the Havemeyer Building. While the board does not typically take votes at work sessions, which are meant to be discussions in open session in preparation for decisions at the regular monthly meetings, this will be an exception due to timing issues. Interim Superintendent of Schools Roger Lulow told the Post this week that the $450,000 in cuts need to be made tonight so they can be sent back to the town and be printed up with the rest of the budget before the new fiscal year begins on July 1.

Dr. Lulow said the cuts to the 2012-13 budget were designed to impact the central office and not classroom teaching. The cut to the $139.8 million school budget, which was approved last month as part of the overall $404 2012-13 municipal budget by the Representative Town Meeting, was not a surprise to the board. The Board of Estimate and Taxation made the cut earlier this year after the budget had been approved by the Board of Education in December with the instruction to have the cut finalized before the new budget came into effect.

What was not known until now was where specifically those cuts would be coming from, which is what the Board of Education is poised to vote on tonight.

The reductions come from more than a dozen areas that mostly impact the central office. The $450,000 includes $105,000 in the electrical rate paid by the district, $75,000 saved from money budgeted for transportation that won’t be needed. There are also savings of $7,000 for unused sick leave by district employees and a a $12,000 savings from budget adjustments to the district’s adult education program that runs nights at Greenwich High School. Dr. Lulow said because of lower than expected wage increases, the district is also saving $25,000 in its contract with the Teamsters union.

Dr. Lulow explained there will be a $7,000 savings because a state program that Greenwich had shared the cost of is ending due to budget cuts in Hartford. The town had been part of a program where teachers from out of town would commute to Greenwich via Metro North and would then get picked up and brought to school from the stations they used. This was a joint state and town program where the district paid $7,000, which was half the cost. But since the state is ending its funding of the program, Greenwich will not be able to pay the full cost and it will not be offered any longer.

Additionally the district will save $12,000 by going ahead with a plan to try and improve student achievement. Originally last year Dr. Lulow had put forward a plan to expand summer school in the district, but ultimately the board went forth with hiring a new academic coach instead. Because of this, the district was able to save $12,000 that can now be applied to meet the $450,000 figure.

For the district’s Havemeyer Building headquarters, Dr. Lulow said there will be a $29,050 cut in administrative costs. This includes supplies and other office savings.

Another central office saving will come from salary. When Dr. Lulow took over for former Superintendent of Schools Sidney Freund last summer, they had a level salary. However with new Superintendent William McKersie now poised to take over the district on July 9 there will be a $15,750 reduction in salary between the two men that is now being applied to the budget. Dr. Lulow added there will be $85,200 in salary for two retiring academic coordinators that he will now fill on an interim basis with part-time hires.

Dr. Lulow said it would then be up to Dr. McKersie to be able to make the final decisions on how to best staff those positions.

“When Dr. McKersie gets here he can make his own decision on who and how he wants to fill these jobs,” Dr. Lulow said. “I didn’t want to make a binding decision for him.”

One cut that will impact the school level directly involves new equipment that was scheduled to be brought in this coming year for the Western and Central Middle School fitness centers. Purchase of that equipment will now be deferred at a savings of $34,000 according to Dr. Lulow.

The proposed cuts from Dr. Lulow will not become official until the board votes on them and Board of Education Chairman Leslie Moriarty told the Post that there were no red flags that raised immediate concern. She said she believed the board was inclined to approve the cuts, which were first discussed last month at the regular May meeting.

“We hadn’t had a good chance to really dig through them, but there weren’t any questions raised last time,” Ms. Moriarty said. “We heard about them before but we didn’t have the complete list like we do now. More than half of these cuts are in area in which current information shows us that we are underspending in the current budget so that’s something we’re comfortable with.”

Dr. Lulow said that the cuts were carefully made to have no impact on the classroom level.

“It took us a while to get all of this finalized,” Dr. Lulow said this week. “We knew going in that we weren’t going to cut things in the classroom. Nothing is going to be cut from teaching supplies or for what is needed on the classroom level. Because of that it took us longer than it might have otherwise to find all the areas to get these savings. We wanted to make sure the impact that is felt by this is felt in central office and not in the classroom.”

 

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