Board of Ed approves required budget cuts

The Board of Education tied a bow around the 2012-2013 operating budget last week while also looking ahead to the 2013-2014 budget.

At a work session on June 7, the board unanimously voted for several adjustments, which will decrease the upcoming school year’s proposed budget of $139.8 million by $450,000, as required by the Representative Town Meeting, which approved the town’s budget last month. The school cuts were mandated at the time but where those cuts would come from did not become official until last week.

The adjustments were designed to impact the central office, rather than classroom teaching, according to Interim Superintendent of Schools Roger Lulow.

Accordingly, the approved cuts included a reduction in the electrical rate, a transportation budget adjustment to reflect its actual year-to-date cost, unused employee sick time, holding off on permanent replacement of retiring program coordinators, an adjustment to the superintendent salary line, ending a joint town-state commuter program for teachers, an adjustment to the district’s contract with the Teamsters union, central office administrative and supply cuts and spending money on an instructional coach instead of on increased summer school. The board had voted last year to hire the coach instead of, as had been previously discussed, expanding summer school to improve student achievement. Dr. Lulow said that decision now has the extra benefit of cost savings for the district.

There was also a reduction in the adult education Family Learning Program as the result of a decrease in the number of participating families. According to Dr. Lulow, the program coordinator “believes that based on past expenditures, [the] reduction of $12,000 will allow him to continue to operate at the present level of the program.” The program will continue with the budget decrease but is expected to actually expand in future years, which could call for more money down the line.

Additionally, a delay in purchasing fitness center equipment for Western and Central middle schools allowed for a $34,000 budget cut. Dr. Lulow clarified that the reduction in fitness equipment funding is a delay rather than an elimination.

“The choice of losing pupils’ money for educational services as opposed to delaying this seems to be a wiser judgment,” he said.

While board member Steven Anderson was not present during the vote on budget adjustments, the seven remaining members unanimously voted in favor of the proposed cuts.

The board also discussed budget guidelines and limitations for the 2013-2014 operating budget, which will be prepared by William McKersie, the district’s newly hired superintendent of schools who assumes office next month. Several items must be addressed in the budget, in addition to receiving supporting documentation. This is expected to be discussed at the board’s regular meeting on June 21 at Cos Cob School when those guidelines will be put to a vote

In voting on the guidelines, the board is expected to say that all budget decisions for next year include information on the achievement of programs and services offered by the district, technology needs and factors inhibiting student success. Student achievement will be a big priority, as expected, and the budget decisions for next year are also slated to include recommendations for academic improvements, specific notation of areas in which resources could be better redistributed, and an explanation that demonstrates an equal allocation of resources among all district schools.

Though they would have to anyway by town charter, the Board of Education will also formally include language that will say its budget has to follow approved Board of Estimate and Taxation guidelines.

Documentation substantiating the budget must also include a summary of all major objectives, goals and programs, and an explanation of why funding is provided for each of those initiatives.


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