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Middlebury's Region 15 Board of Education Members Seeking Flat Budget

The Middlebury board members will advocate for a zero percent increase or less, according to Region 15 Board of Education member Paul Babarik.

 

Heidi Shea and Frank Pellegrini attended the Monday, Feb. 6, Board of Selectmen meeting with a message: "The Board of Education needs oversight from our Boards of Selectmen and Finance. Your 'hands-off' approach is no longer acceptable. Indifference is obsolete. Get constrictively involved."

Shea and Pellegrini provided the board with a packet of information they titled "Middlebury's Perpetual Dilemma." The dilemma is this, according to Shea and Pellegrini: The Region 15 school budget increased over a period of five years, while the student population decreased.

Some highlights from Shea and Pellegrini's presentation to the board are as follows:

  • In the last five budget years, Middlebury's Region 15 budget increased by $4,267,200 - an average of $853,444 per year.
  •  The data from the presentation showed an increase in Middlebury's student population over those five years, but a decrease in Southbury's student population. When that data was factored together, the result was an overall decrease in Region 15's student population of 99 students over those five years, according to Shea and Pellegrini's report.
  • Regarding union negotiations, Shea and Pellegrini feel the Board of Education is inadequate during union contract negotiation time.

"Unionized administrators and faculty are consuming 77 percent of the annual budget," Shea and Pellegrini stated in their presentation. "Regardless of the percentage of the school budget increase, union negotiators consume 77 percent of the budget for salary and benefits."

The two said they support the Boards of Finance and Selectmen making the Board of Education more formidable, in order to compete with the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition, or SEBAC.

"Elected officials in both Middlebury and Southbury annually eviscerate their municipal budgets to accommodate school board negotiated contracts," Shea and Pellegrini stated in their packet.

They acknowledged that a Board of Selectmen cannot control a Board of Education but feel that more can be done.

"As elected officials, it is your fiduciary responsibility to get directly involved," Shea and Pellegrini stated in the packet. "Regional school districts are governed by different state statutes but this does not give you immunity regarding how the primary line item cost will be created."

First Selectman Edward B. St. John said it becomes difficult to explain a declining school population and a budget that continues to increase.

"I look to our Board of Education to address that because this Board of Selectmen is very much powerless with what we can and can't do with Region 15."

Region 15 Board of Education member and Middlebury resident Paul Babarik offered up the following statement regarding the budget season.

"If it helps at all, we here in this room have dedicated ourselves to a zero percent budget [increase] this year," he said, referring to the Middlebury residents that serve on the Board of Education. "We are going to do our best to keep it below zero."

William James Walton, Sr February 09, 2012 at 12:31 PM
The Board of Education, by state statute, cannot go below last year's budget, but they can and should attempt to achieve a 0% increase.
Brandt Schneider February 09, 2012 at 03:51 PM
What percentage of the budget should salaries be? What are you looking for 75%, 70%?
Raymond E. Sullivan, MD February 09, 2012 at 03:56 PM
I commend the Middlebury representatives on the Region 15 BOE fo their attempts to hold the line on next year's Education budget. I disagree with the comment that the BOE "cannot go below las year's budget" however. This assumes a stable student population. In a district with declining enrollment, the BOE under Section 10-15 of Chapter 164 of the State Statutes may " recalculate such amount based on the number of pupils in average daily membership in the regional school district for the current school year and may adjust each member town's payment to the regional school district for the following fiscal year by the difference between the last such payment and the recalculated amount. " There is nothing in Statute which says one has to spend the same amount as the previous year on a contracting student body. To continue to spend the same amount or more in the face of declining enrollments is fiscally irresponsible.
Ericca February 09, 2012 at 04:55 PM
With all these increases over the past few years where does the money go? It certainly doesn't seem to be special education. I fought for years for my child, and yes "accomidations" were made, but not the help we needed and deserved. My child was finally coaxed into getting her GED. I'm just happy to not have to keep begging for something EVERY students deserves.

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