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Education Subcommittee School Budget Recommended As Is To Legislative Council



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Education Subcommittee

School Budget Recommended As Is To Legislative Council

By Eliza Hallabeck

The Legislative Council’s Education Subcommittee voted Monday, March 28, to recommend the school district’s proposed budget without changes to the full council.

For the second meeting, Board of Education Chair William Hart and Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson faced questions from the Legislative Council Education Subcommittee members regarding the proposed 2011-12 budget. During the first meeting, on Monday, March 21, subcommittee members posed questions compiled from both community members and the subcommittee members. Without getting through the list of 47 questions during the last meeting, members decided to compress and focus the remaining questions for the meeting on March 28.

As passed by the Board of Education on February 8, the school district;s proposed 2011-12 budget was $69,201,017. The Board of Finance later recommended the 2011-12 school budget on March 3 to the Legislative Council for $68,703,427, a $497,590 difference that reflected adjusted numbers in health insurance and fuel costs.

The Legislative Council Education Subcommittee will now present its findings to the full Legislative Council on Wednesday, April 6.

Subcommittee Chair Kathy Fetchick said this year was the first time in the seven years she has been looking over the Board of Education’s yearly budget reports that she felt it was extremely reasonable. The collaboration between the school board and the town did make a difference this year, but, she said, there are some things that still need to be looked at, like space.

“I think that a lot of us have talked about looking at our overhead costs and making sure they are as lean as possible,” said Ms Fetchick, “especially if it doesn’t affect the classroom directly. I think we ought to go back at those costs. I’m hoping that in this coming year that we are not going to see unexpected increases in staff without having public discussion. I think it is important that we all understand the reason things are added.”

While listing some of the items she hopes the school board will keep in perspective in the next year, Ms Fetchick listed the district’s pattern of adding language courses without examining the need to remove other courses from the high school.

“I think it is a very reasonable budget. I really do. I am in favor of moving it forward… but my pet peeve is that we have taken from Peter to pay Paul,” said Ms Fetchick, noting she has heard a lot of unhappiness from the elementary school level from a feeling of loss while the high school gains.

She also said the schedule situation at Reed needs to be addressed, and it is not being addressed.

“I feel very strongly that issue needs to be resolved, and I don’t think adding money to it is going to fix the problem,” Ms Fetchick said regarding Reed Intermediate School’s schedule.

Ms Fetchick later made a “friendly amendment” to Legislative Council Education Subcommittee member Kevin Fitzgerald’s motion to move the school budget untouched to the full Legislative Council for review. Ms Fetchick’s amendment would have asked the school board to reevaluate adding a fourth assistant principal position to the high school for the 2011-12 academic year.

The amendment was unsupported by her fellow subcommittee members. Mr Fitzgerald said asking the school board to reevaluate certain objects in the budget could be done through a friendlier means, by holding conversations like the one at the meeting.

Mr Fitzgerald said there are always areas to find more savings and ways of paying less for more, but hard decisions seemed to have been made in compiling the 2011-12 proposed school budget.

“There are a lot of things that we would like to do that we are not doing,” said Mr Fitzgerald, pinpointing adding a communication director for the school district or reinstating Reed Intermediate School’s Project Adventure course.

Before the vote on Mr Fitzgerald’s motion was called, Legislative Council Education Subcommittee member George Ferguson said he would be inclined to vote against moving the budget as is. He also said he did not want to make any motions to cut from the budget, because he did not want to hinder any collaboration efforts.

The motion passed 3 to 1 with Mr Ferguson the only member to vote against recommending the budget move through the process untouched.

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