School Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi Jr. told members of the Board of Education Thursday that developing the 2012-13 budget proposal was one of the hardest tasks he’s ever had. Adjusting his proposal to continue to address class size concerns at the elementary school level without adding to a modest proposal could be an even more daunting task.
Several members of the Board of Education expressed concerns during their first budget workshop Thursday evening that the reduction of nine positions within the district's elementary schools could be detrimental to class sizes, but are exploring ways to restore those positions without adding new funding to proposed request for a 3.88-percent increase.
“I think the staff being lost at elementary level – nine is just too much,” said board member Jill Notar-Francesco. “We can’t restore everything, but I hope we can find a way to recoup some of those.”
Erardi’s proposal, , calls for a 3.88 percent increase in the operating budget. The proposal includes $1.93 million in new spending and $1.16 million to absorb operating costs that were paid for in 2011-12 using a federal jobs grant.
Although there are increases in spending, the $82.7 million proposal not only aims to keep current level of services and programs, but also suggested eliminating 22 full-time positions including nine at the elementary school level.
Notar-Francesco said although current projections would have class levels at 22 students in first and second grade classes and 24 in grades 3-5, it could have adverse effects on the efforts by board members over the past five years to reduce those class sizes in order to enhance student achievement.
Recently-elected board member Terry Lombardi said she also believes 22 positions are too many to cut, but requested that the school administration consider finding a way to restructure in order to save some of the staffing without increasing the budget beyond the 3.88-percent.
“I am looking for reduction in dollars and I think we owe that to our constituents,” said Lombardi, who has a background in business. “I am concerned about staff, however. We have to consider other cuts - tonight I learned that there is $104,000 in middle school sports. It’s a non-mandated cost and would not impact losing teachers. I owe it to myself and those I represent to know what might be there, what options we might have.”
Lombardi said she is not simply proposing to cut middle school sports, but that the board must take a hard look at other areas where costs could be reduced. She said it might not be a popular proposal to cut something like middle school sports, but it’s a tough decision that the board would have to consider, among other things.
But where will those cuts come from?
“Everything we have is staff driven,” said board member David Derynoski. “Are we looking to do this and have (administrators) look for programs we could do without?”
While there is a small spending increase, Erardi proposed very little in terms of new programming for the upcoming year and both Derynoski and Board of Education Chairman Brian Goralski said cutting existing programs could be detrimental to students throughout the district.
In previous years, board members have faced difficult decisions including determining whether or not to cut a program like the . ALTA serves students who are at high risk to fail in Southington High School and talks surrounding the program being cut in the past led to pleas from students and parents to keep the program alive.
“It’s tough,” Goralski said. “I’m confident that any work the administration would be able to do is going to involve cuts in another area. I have no desire to have them look at reducing a program like ALTA and I think that’s what we would be left asking us to do.”
The school administration will look at several non-mandated programs and bring back suggestions for the board’s next budget workshop, which is currently scheduled to take place Tuesday evening at Hatton Elementary School.
Erardi presented his proposal to the Board of Education through a presentation Thursday evening and has made the presentation available to Southington Patch. Due to technical difficulties, the presentation could not be uploaded with this article, but Patch will provide it as soon as possible.