The new budget figure coming before Region 14 voters at a Tuesday, June 26, referendum, is $30,437,674 and features a 0.63 percent increase, or $191,645, more than the 2011-12 of $30,246,029.
Since the , $380,091 in reductions were made and the board voted 5-0 at its Thursday, June 14, special meeting at , to bring the new budget figure before voters.
The June 6 rejected budget amount, at $30,817,765, reflected a $571,736 increase, or 1.89 percent, over the 2011-12 budget.
Line Items Removed From the Proposed Budget
- 0.5 full-time equivalent of a science teacher (will be funded by vo-ag grant) $35,399
- : $153,658
- Miscellaneous reductions: $60,000
- 0.5 full-time equivalent of a pre-K teacher: $20,000
- 0.6 full-time equivalent of new music staff position: $37,687
- One bus: $42,535
- 1.0 full-time equivalent of a new staff psychologist: $30,812
Originally, $30,000 from miscellaneous line items was the suggested reduction. Board member Gary Suslavich favored removing $50,000 to $60,000 out of miscellaneous.
"You're asking me to keep teachers I don't want," he said. Give me the 60."
Board member Maryanne Van Aken said if the board consents to the $60,000 out of miscellaneous, then Suslavich will have to vote with the board.
"Let's compromise," she said.
"I'm giving up more than you are," Suslavich said.
"I don't know about that," said Van Aken.
Potential Reductions Vetoed by the Board
The following potential reductions were not supported by the board and were not eliminated from the proposed budget.
- 2.0 full-time equivalent elementary teachers: $98,109
- 1.0 full-time equivalent English teacher at Woodbury Middle School: $47,693
- $35,000 in Athletics
On the revenue side, the board discussed raising student activity and parking fees, to the tune of approximately $25,000 in new revenue. The majority of the board did not support raising the parking free at Nonnewaug High School from $5 to $50.
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Support for Athletics
Athletics and teachers were two of the most spoken of topics at the special meeting. Parents, board members and Nonnewaug High School football players said why they felt the athletics program needs to stay.
Will Moser, one of four Nonnewaug High School football captains who spoke, said he has been a part of football in Region 14 for nine years, starting with Pop Warner.
"It means the world to us," he said. "I know budgets are important, but can you actually put a price on what sports teach us?"
Sports add a layer to learning that academics alone do not, said Moser, citing discipline and brotherhood.
John Dominello, head of the culinary department at Nonnewaug High School, said the community members who don't support athletics should be ashamed of themselves.
He said the naysayers need to stop spewing dangerous speech.
"The statement 'vote no until we get zero percent' is dangerous, unless you can back it up," he said.
Until residents know what will be lost if a budget is flat, Dominello said they should keep quiet.
"If we were going to zero percent, we'll be in trouble," he said. "It's time to take our community back from the handful of people that badger the board with statistics every month."
Art McNally said he is not rallying against the school board or the children.
"I'm considered one of your bashers and i'm sorry," he said. "I respect everything that each and every one of you do."
Support for Elementary School Positions
If the funds for elementary teachers were removed from the budget, class sizes would be higher than what the board recommends, said Goeler. The board ultimately supported keeping those funds in the budget.
Katie Yocis, a teacher at Nonnewaug, asked the board to reconsider. Students' ability to learn is decreased when class sizes are increased, she said.
Roberta Zulpa said if her son did not have a strong elementary school teacher, he would have fallen through the cracks.
Region 14 Superintendent Jody Goeler said the loss of one bus will add 10 to 15 minutes to current bus routes but said there will be enough seats for every child.
with determining what could be removed from the budget in order to get a flat budget.
"We didn't want to put things up there to inflame the community," he said, adding that if the board wanted to achieve a flat budget or close to it, the reductions were what the leadership team and himself suggested.
"I believe, in my heart of hearts, that this is the wrong way to go," said Goeler, but he said he is hoping the community supports the proposed budget.
"My hope is that we don't have another workshop," he said. "I think we all agree, we don't want another referendum to go down."
Director of Curriculum
Goeler said that if the community does not support that position, the district has to come up with different ways to do the work.
"And there's an urgent need for that kind of work," he said.
Goeler said the level of work the district can accomplish in one year without that position is not as much as he wants. He is hoping the community will see a difference in how students' experiences change for the better with a more cohesive curriculum and will support the position in the future.
McNally suggested the district purchase existing curriculum from other school districts.
Scott Baider submitted a petition with signatures of people who share Goeler's sentiments.
"There's a lot of people who do care about that position," Baider said.
Jean Carnese said she is opposed to the position.
"I would point out that among the people I know who voted no, that 153,000 position was a real firestorm," she said. "The woman who said, 'when you lose a program, you never get it back' — well it's been my experience that you gain an administrator and you never lose it. As long as that administrator is left in the budget in any form, I personally am going to vote no."
Goeler said Region 14 had a director of curriculum and instruction who was replaced by four coordinators.
"We don't have either of those," he said. "There's a difference between hearing what you say and agreeing with what you say. Just because the words that come out of my mouth may be different than the words you want to hear come out of my mouth doesn't mean I don't hear you."
Time to Vote
Board member Maryanne Van Aken said the time has come to pass the budget.
"We really need this to pass," she said. "This has to pass. This is not a threat. this is the reality we are sitting with here."