BERLIN - The Board of Education met last week to discuss $300,000 in cuts made to its 2018-19 budget request.
At a special meeting Monday, the Education Resource Committee recommended to remove the Effective School Solutions program from the operating budget, but is still hoping to run it, said school board President Matt Tencza on Wednesday.
No final decision has been made.
ESS is a special education program that helps students with psychological issues such as depression and anxiety.
The program, which costs $275,000 through a contracted service, is still expected to run, Tencza said, who hopes that funding may still be available at the end of the year.
Whatever the difference is between the level of funding necessary to keep ESS and the reduction the school board received as part of next year’s budget, could be managed through other savings.
Other programs the district was considering removing before the cuts included middle school sports and elementary school art and math. Implementing sports and parking fees was also considered.
Tencza said the recommendation on the ESS program was made because it was the easiest way to manage the reduction.
“We’re very big advocates of this program,” Tencza said, adding that students have said at public hearings that it has saved their lives.
Mayor Mark Kaczynski is a member of the Republican majority on the council that made the education and other general government budget request cuts in response to voters at two referendums saying the proposals were too high. After hearing the news Tuesday night about ESS, which he said he supports, he said the school system shouldn’t remove the program.
When the GOP proposed the cuts, it elected not to use $680,000 in additional state aid to reduce the tax levy and fully fund the school’s budget. Instead, the party decided to make an unbudgeted allocation to the general fund, to use it midyear during a possible funding shortfall or emergency.
Kaczynski said the school board could fund everything at the start of the year, without realizing any budget reduction, and then if the school board has a shortfall midway through the year, they could come back to the council for an appropriation.
Teacher retirements for next year were already factored into the school’s 1.99 percent budget request.
Allocation of funds that remain at the end of the year is also being discussed for school security guards and capital improvements for next year.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.