BERLIN - At a special meeting on Monday, Superintendent of Schools David Erwin presented the board with 11 cuts to staff and administrators throughout the school district.
“We were pleased to get additional funding from the Town Council but this is still a difficult process,” Board of Education President Matthew Tencza said Tuesday.
The cuts would remove an assistant principal at the elementary school level, a teacher at Griswold Elementary School and Willard Elementary school, a Spanish teacher at Berlin High School, a counselor at the high school, a position within the TV studio at the high school - which would then be run by a teacher out of the tech education department - a custodian within the district and two teachers within the McGee Middle School family consumer program.
The classroom size for a teacher at Griswold Elementary school would be 19.12 students after the teacher reduction. The reduction at elementary schools are in addition to the reduction of a teacher at Hubbard Elementary School, based on declining enrollment, that Erwin originally presented with his budget.
The cuts would also remove a district technology person, a McGee Middle school French teacher that worked 4/10 full time and an art teacher that worked 6/10 full time who is retiring would not be replaced.
In addition to the cuts, Erwin and the board discussed a reduction of $30,000 in the district’s sports program - with no specific elementary, middle or high school level targeted at the moment - fewer office supplies and conference attendances that would be available to district employees ranging from $15,000 to $5,000, and removal of stipends for department heads at the High School in the physical education, special educational and technical education departments.
At a previous Board of Education meeting the board discussed the option of instilling a pay to play policy across all sports, but Tencza said Tuesday that a study would be conducted on how to best institute such an option before making any decisions.
“It could’ve been a lot harder without the additional funding,” said Tencza, who added that nothing is set in stone.
A final public hearing will be held prior to the referendum on April 19 at Town Council chambers, 240 Kensington Road, at 7 p.m. in which the council and Board of Education will discuss the proposed budget.
The referendum will be on April 25 from to 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. at all polling locations.
The board initially requested $43.9 million, a 4.7 percent or $1.9 million increase from last year, as a status-quo budget, meaning nothing was added or removed from the previous year. In an effort to not raise taxes and with the uncertainty of funding cuts from the state, the council initially reduced their request by $1.4 million.
Following two public hearings, in which over 20 residents spoke against the cuts to the Board of Ed budget, and a letter sent out to parents of children in the school district, Mayor Mark Kaczynski and council budget subcommittee Chairman David Evans met with Erwin, Tencza and education resource committee member Jeffrey Cugno and reallocated $500,000 from the town side to the school board’s side.
The final allotment for the Board of Education is at $43 million, which is a 2.7 percent or $1 million increase from last year’s budget.
The $900,000 reduction to this year’s request is roughly the same amount as last year’s $1 million cut, as the overall board budget increase is greater than the 1.22 percent, 1.5 percent and 1.41 percent increase from the last three years, respectively.
The overall budget is a 2.5 percent increase from last year’s $83.2 million budget, and doesn’t include the potential $5 million hit from a lack of state funding and increase in town spending for teacher retirement pensions, which equates to $2.4 million, from the governor’s proposed budget. The proposed budget includes $5.4 million in cuts from town department requests.
To account for the increase from last year’s budget, the tax rate is projected to increase from 30.81 mills to 31.68, or 2.8 percent. For a house assessed at $250,000, that tax increase would equate to $150 annually.
According to Finance Director Kevin Delaney, if the governor’s proposed budget is realized, the mill rate would increase to 33.89, or 10 percent, in order to account for the $5 million hit. For a house assessed at $250,000, that tax increase would be $569 annually.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.