School Board Approves Budget Proposal
School Board Approves Budget Proposal
By Eliza Hallabeck
Following multiple board meetings, the Board of Education reviewed and approved its 2012-13 budget January 31 with a 3.07 percent increase over the last yearâs spending package.
The board passed its $70,055,794 budget unanimously after a five-hour meeting in which it ignored a recommendation by the superintendent of schools to eliminate two positions in the districtâs health and music departments.
On Tuesday, January 17, Dr Robinson delivered her budget report, recommending a 4.63 percent in-crease over last yearâs budget, and a 5.31 percent increase if the board implements full-day kindergarten within the district.
The 4.64 percent increase would create a $71,122,794 budget, and the 5.31 percent increase would create a $71,579,456 budget. Last year, the school districtâs budget passed referendum at roughly $67,971,000.
Dr Robinson also told the school board that if the budget remained the same for the 2012-13 fiscal year, the contractual obligations and other scheduled increases would put the budget at a 2.26 percent increase.
As passed by the Board of Education, the 2012-13 spending plan includes implementing full-day kindergarten, costs associated with staff and program development, a guidance counselor position at Newtown Middle School, and adding wireless Internet access to the A-Wing at Newtown High School.
While members of the school board said they have items they would like added to the budget if savings from moving budget items can be found during the budget process, they also did not want to see a higher budget increase.
Board of Education Vice Chair Laura Roche said one of her priorities, if the board can find room through further savings, would be implementing two reading staff positions at Reed Intermediate School and adding a physical education instructor at Reed that was cut from a previous budget.
Board member William Hart said any savings found in the past rarely covered the cost of subsequent cuts to the school district budget after it was approved by the school board.
Some of the expenses in the superintendentâs proposed spending plan that did not make it into the school boardâs recommended budget include a district level math/science specialist and a math teacher at the high school.
Two cuts in the superintendentâs proposed budget â the school districtâs director of health and the school districtâs director of music â were not removed from the 2012-13 budget, as passed by the school board.
Once the board had passed its budget, Mr Hart said he feels the spending package is not adequate for what Newtown needs, but said he would support the budget.
Board Chair Debbie Leidlein said it is a hard job to sit on the board and decide what to include and exclude from the budget.
âWe have to live with this very carefully,â said Ms Leidlein, âand we have to keep the very best interests of education in Newtown in mind. We have to be fiscally responsible, and we have to take into account what the community wants.â
She also said she feels it is important to continue looking for cost savings.
âI think it is important that we continue to look at certain areas â staffing, transportation, commodities, health insurance,â said Ms Leidlein. âThose are some things that can move and areas where we can find savings.â
Any savings found, she said, can be used to add programs or give back to the taxpayers, but as the process moves along, she said it is important to continue to inform the taxpayers of the process.
Following the approval of the budget, school board Vice Chair Laura Roche made a motion to have the school board hear back from district administration before full-day kindergarten in implemented in the district. While this would keep the school board notified, she said, it will also allow the board to notify the community.
Ms Leidlein said implementing full-day kindergarten is a huge undertaking, and she would like the community to have a more secure sense about doing so.