School board to discuss budget reduction Tuesday night

The Board of Education will hold a special meeting Tuesday, Feb. 20 to discuss cuts to the superintendent’s proposed budget for the 2018-19 school year.

The meeting will be held in the Board of Education conference room in the Town Hall annex, at 7:30 p.m. As it is a special meeting, there will be no opportunity for public comment.

The board is looking to cut Superintendent Karen Baldwin’s original budget, which would increase spending by 4.83% down to 3.1%.

That comes after town officials raised concerns that the schools try to stay under a 2.5% spending cap imposed by the state legislature.

In addition, board members asked Baldwin to add back in staff cuts that were made in the original budget, which would have reduced two English teachers at the high school and reduced hours for art teachers in the district’s six elementary schools — at a savings of $272,080.

With the English and art positions back in the budget, the Superintendent’s office will have to find an additional $1,877,322 to cut from the budget to get down to a 3.1% increase.

Reached by The Press by email, Baldwin said that in order to get there, “deep reductions across all program areas” would need to be considered to meet either a 3.1% or 2.5% budget.

In a statement signed by Board Chairwoman Fran Walton, Vice Chairman Doug Silver, and Secretary Margaret Stamatis earlier this week, the board's executive committee said it “asked the Superintendent to revise the initial budget with a 3.1 % increase and to reduce in areas that would have as little impact on the classroom as possible.

"However, with all honesty, we know that all education expenses have eventual impact on the classroom.”

That decision came after parents, staff, and students spoke for the better part of an hour during the board’s public comment time at it’s Feb. 12 meeting.

“I’m actually horrified that I’m before you asking you not to cut our english program,” community member Heidi Namiot, adding, “there is no job, career, profession, that you do not need to communicate,” whether orally, or written.

The proposed budget also calls for further staff reductions throughout the district, including cutting an entire seventh grade team at East Ridge Middle School, and an elementary teacher.

Baldwin's original numbers would also reduce math para-educators at the middle school level by 1.5 staff members, clerical para-educators in the Special Education department by 2.82, and two full-time tech para-educators in the district’s Technology department.

As of Friday, Feb. 16, the Superintendent’s office only confirmed that the proposed cuts to English teachers at the high school, and art teachers at the elementary school will be added back in to the revised budget.