No more teacher cuts: Schools look to trim $1.8 million from proposed 2018-19 budget

A dozen and a half parents spoke at Monday night's Board of Education meeting, voicing frustration with proposed cuts to elementary art teachers and English teachers at Ridgefield High School.

The school administration — tasked with reducing Superintendent Karen Baldwin's original 4.83% budget increase for the 2018-19 school year, possibly down to 2.5% — listened to those complaints and assured the room that its goal was to stay away from making any further reductions to classroom teachers.

Nonetheless, the board members and administrators agreed that the budget figure must come down — even if the town won't face any penalty if it doesn't comply with the state's 2.5% municipal spending cap.

After deliberations Monday night, school leaders said they believe Ridgefield can produce a budget proposal for the 2018-19 school that comes with only a 3.1% increase — $1.8 million less than what was originally proposed.

Savings will come from cuts in elementary clerical staff, among other areas.

The board discussed having another meeting next Tuesday, Feb. 20, before hosting two public hearings on the proposed budget — one at Scotts Ridge Saturday, Feb. 24, and the other in the town hall annex Monday, Feb. 26.

The Feb. 20 meeting has not been confirmed, nor have any of the proposed cuts that would get the schools down to a 3.1% budget increase.

The cap

First Selectmen Rudy Marconi and State Rep. John Frey were in attendance Monday night and spoke about the 2.5% spending cap that could require the schools to cut $2.16 million from Baldwin's original proposed budget.

Rep. Frey said he has put forward a bill to eliminate the 2.5% cap but right now the cap remains in place — although no penalty will be handed out to the town if it it is not met.

The challenge, he said, is that the local budget will be approved long before the state decides upon a cap and associated penalties.

Marconi said the Board of Selectmen is proceeding with the 2.5% cap as its framework for both town and school spending, even without the threat of penalty.