School Superintendent Proposes 3.88 Percent Increase

The proposal, released to the public Thursday, calls for reductions in staffing and a 2.39 increase after considering a funding cliff as a result of a federal jobs grant, officials said.

In an effort to maintain services and adjust to a funding cliff left with a federal jobs grant expiring, School Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi Jr. has requested a 3.88 percent increase for the 2012-13 school year, but the request doesn’t come without reductions including the elimination of 22 full-time positions.

The superintendent’s budget, which was released to the public on Thursday, asks members to approve an $82.7 million budget for the upcoming year. The request includes $1.93 million, or 2.39 percent, in new spending and an additional $1.16 million, or 1.49 percent, to help adjust for a federal education jobs fund grant that will run out at the end of the current fiscal year.

The operating budget for the Board of Education is $79.61 million for the current year and $80.77 million after including the jobs grant.

“It is my belief that this proposed budget represents the program priorities set forth by this Board of Education and also represents a plan that continues to maintain the needed resources for all children,” Erardi wrote in a letter to the board.

Erardi said in the letter that the plan represents “the most difficult work I have done since arriving in Southington.”

The elimination of 22 positions represents the largest change over the current fiscal year, with the reduction affecting all levels. The plan calls for eliminations of four teaching positions at , one position each in the middle schools and nine teaching positions in various elementary schools. Seven special education paraprofessionals in the district would also be eliminated.

The decision to make the reductions was a difficult one, Erardi said, but he is confident that the schools will be able to maintain long range planning to fund technology and keep class sizes manageable at the elementary school level. District goals are to avoid exceeding an 18-student maximum in kindergarten, 22-student class sizes in grades 1 and 2, and 24 students per class in grades 3 through 5.

Board of Education Chairman Brian Goralski said the board will take a close look at class sizes in particular as they consider the position reductions and are hopeful that even in eliminating full-time positions, the adjustment can be made without having to lay off any personnel.

“We are hoping this is really a reduction and not a cut,” Goralski said. “My hope is that we will be able to maintain the record we have been so proud of, of not laying off an employee.”

The board has already accepted several retirements that will go into effect at the end of the year and are hoping other traditional turnover will account for the remaining position reductions. It’s still early in the process, he said, and a lot needs to be discussed.

While there are reductions in the superintendent’s proposal, Erardi’s plan does include several line moderate item increases in areas that have been neglected in recent years, including technology. The $107,023 increase in technology is designed to help address both short- and long-term equipment replacements within the district.

Other notable cost increases include contractual obligations based on wage increase in union contracts, increased transportation costs and insurance increases.

The town’s Self Insurance Committee noted last month that there was an 88-member increase in those covered under the town’s policy, many of which were added to the Board of Education side. Paired with an increase in premiums, this accounts for a 5.9 percent increase based on allocation rates.

Contractually, the town is also looking at a 2.35 percent raise for administrators, a 3.5 percent raise for teachers and a 2.5 percent raise for nurses based on union agreements. All three groups have adjusted and agreed to zero percent increases in past years.

The Board of Education is currently in contract negotiations with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. AFSCME represents custodians, maintenance staff, secretaries and food service employees. The Connecticut School Educators Association contract, which represents paraprofessionals, is also under negotiation.

The Board of Education will begin working through the budget on Tuesday, Jan. 17, with a second workshop on Thursday, Jan. 19. The board is expected to approve a budget to be sent to the Board of Finance on Jan. 26.

“To me, this is an easy budget request to defend,” Goralski said. “This is a reasonable budget for the board to begin working from. Now we will need to see if the economic climate will allow us to do so.”

School superintendents have made the following requests, by percentage increase, over the past decade:

School Year      Percentage Increase 2002-2003 7.8% 2003-2004 8.2% 2004-2005 8.9% 2005-2006 8.9% 2006-2007 7.8% 2007-2008 7.7% 2008-2009 6.8% 2009-2010 4.4% 2010-2011 4.53% 2011-2012 2.08% 2012-2013 3.88%
Bill Winslow January 13, 2012 at 04:42 AM
Didn't we add a lot of cost, programs, etc. a few years ago based upon federal funding that could go away? Wasn't that a bit short-sighted?? Now that it goes away, we choose to cut educators! Incredible management.
Bill Winslow January 13, 2012 at 04:52 AM
You know, MaryLou, that is getting to be the oldest games in the book. Kids have used this logic with their moms and dads for years, "But Dad, Region 15 is doing it!" The same logic is perennially used when it comes to comparative compensation -- find the higher paid district and point to them. It's about time the BoE started looking at where cost needs to be incurred to educate the kids and put anything else on the chopping block. I'd rather have these experienced educators get reasonable compensation and work out their careers to EDUCATE and cut funding for other peripherals, sports being one of them, where we spend far too much money on things that are not central to education. This Board has a tremendous tendency to add programs that are nice-to-haves and then gut the fundamental tasks of public education. To talk about cutting ONE teacher is terrible to even entertain as an option; they should be ashamed of themselves.
Southington Phoenix January 13, 2012 at 05:02 AM
No doubt 22 teachers will retire before the new budget becomes a reality. No layoffs necessary. No one gets laid off in Southington. Although, getting old might find you in a position where you lose your "Ability to Adapt."
Jason Vallee January 13, 2012 at 05:14 AM
The Board of Education voted not to add artificial turf to their referendum, which then led the Town Council at the request of John Fontana, to develop an exploratory committee to collect all the facts regarding turf installation. The project will include estimates for costs to repair the existing natural grass field and fix drainage issues and a public hearing will be set by the committee in the near future before all facts are returned to the council.
Bill Withers January 14, 2012 at 12:21 PM
Jason, are you living in Fantasyland? Just because there is a public HEARING doesn't mean the vote won't still go to support Fontana's request. This is not a public VOTE but merely a hearing that will promptly be disregarded if averse to the turf. The committee is stacked, the vote will be in support of the turf and a million better-spent dollars will go to a limited-scope benefit to satisfy one sportsman's ego. Get real, man.


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