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Board of Ed Approves New Budget Figure [POLL]

The oft-criticized director of curriculum and development was eliminated from the budget and the Region 14 community came out to support athletics programs.

 

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.

Superintendent Speaks

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."

joe_m June 18, 2012 at 12:24 PM
Elena, with an open process, we could make informed decisions. We have never had this in Region 14. It's always the same, we can't do anything because the budget is 70% salaries and if we cut, it will be in areas the public will not accept. We pay some very large 3 figure salaries to the administrators in this region and it is their job to educate the voters and explain the what, where and why of the budget. Property taxes are to the point where many cannot afford them. School enrollment is down and the region needs to address this. Class sizes of 15 students may be a class size we cannot afford. Maybe we need pay for play. You want tennis courts at the high school, form a tennis club and do a fund raiser. Why do the majority have to pay for tennis courts that most will never use? We have nice tennis courts at the middle school that the tax payers paid for but most never use. Maybe the town / region should put a fee on their use and use the proceeds for some additional tennis courts at the high school. With an open budget process, the residents of the two towns would be able to prioritize what is important to them. You would see lots of ideas from the towns. With a closed process we only get a yes or no vote.
Elena Bowen June 18, 2012 at 03:16 PM
I love ideas!! I shall research it. I hate when there's always a no with no true reasoning. I do believe teacher's salaries are low. I know if i received my Master's i would want more.
tom arras June 21, 2012 at 01:35 AM
I haven't seen anything on patch about Monday's Board of Education meeting where they said the projections are for Region 14 to lose another 23% of the student population for the decade ending in 2021. That is an amazing decrease, and makes it very important that we plan properly for the future of the school population that will be smaller than when the Region was formed. The lack of a proper long range plan was brought up by a resident at last week's meeting, and does need to be addressed now that we know how substantial the drop in students is projected to be.
Jaimie Cura June 21, 2012 at 01:42 AM
That's right, Tom - I haven't written anything yet as I wasn't completely clear on some things and have to seek clarification. Thanks for posting your comment though, in the meantime - much appreciation!
Ricky Hunt July 17, 2012 at 12:42 PM
Today, July 17, the consumer price index for the month of June was released. The inflation rate is ZERO percent. Yet, the school budget has an increase when the number of students is declining rapidly. The supporter of the budget on PATCH always says inflation is 3 percent, and the school budget needs to rise by 3 percent to stay even. Well, he is wrong again. Inflation is zero. The school budget needs to stay level to account for inflation, and THEN DECREASE by 20 percent to reflect the ongoing declinging enrollment. That is the pity of the unfortunate approval of the last budget. Teachers are still getting their 3-5 percent raises including step, and taxpayers are still getting ripped off. That is why the NO vote was the smart vote - not the economic gibberish pushed on patch by that one misguided person. BTW, keep up the good work on patch. The Waterbury paper is a farce.

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