Log In

Reset Password

Wanted: A Budget That Balances Interests



Text Size

Wanted: A Budget That Balances Interests

To the Editor:

At the February 10 Board of Education meeting, board member Paul Mangiafico presented his suggested “blueprint” for the Board of Education budget process. Mr Mangiafico is a retired business executive who knows of what he speaks. He has taken a great deal of time to share his insights with a Board of Education and administration that stands before another year of an emotional budget process in Newtown. The past several years have indeed polarized a number of the voting public. As Mr Mangiafico so aptly points out, it is the extremes that can cause the system damage. He has identified three groups of stakeholders that the Board of Education has responsibility for: the children, the employees of the district, and the citizens and taxpayers. He believes that, “The interests of each of these primary stakeholders must be balanced.” In other words, no one group should dominate over another or cause harm to another group. These are indeed words to listen to. If we stay entrenched in the extremes or stay buried in maintaining the status quo, we will eventually all lose.

Mr Mangiafico also provides us with a tangible example of a budget formula that utilizes a range of acceptable budget numbers. He takes into account not only the district needs and wants, but bases decisions upon an objective framework that uses current inflation indices, contractual obligations, productivity improvements and changes in enrollment. His suggestion makes good sense. He bases his development upon low, medium, and high inflation rates of 2.1 percent, 2.5 percent, and 2.8 percent respectively and other low, medium, and high end estimates for various impacts. This translates into Board of Education budget figures of $52,682,000, $52,920,000, and $53,180,000, with the midpoint as being the most applicable. I believe this provides us with reasonable information on which to base our voting decision. Saying “no” to any increase seems as pointless as saying “yes” to any request. Rather than throw up our hands in disgust or frustration, let this be an opportunity to view the process differently. Any one of these increases is an increase not a cut. Nothing has been taken away from our schools. If you do not understand this, then look to neighboring towns such as Shelton that must actually reduce its staff by 30 positions.

Regardless of the outcome of the April referendum, it is the Board of Education that is responsible for representing all of the citizens of Newtown. The Board of Education needs to be truly open to all of its stakeholders. If the requested budget fails, it should be unacceptable to take anything away from students if a reduction is not equally applied to other stakeholders. Ungracious recipients of last year’s $3.5 million gift should learn to say “thank you” first, before asking for more. Mr Mangiafico “gets it.” The Board of Education now needs to understand that in order to be truly accountable to all the stakeholders they need to acquire skills that will bring Newtown’s schools into the 21st Century where all stakeholders are treated respectfully and equitably and the school administration is held accountable not only for outcomes, but for the process as well.

Renate Burch

261 Berkshire Road, Sandy Hook                               March 26, 2004

Comments are open. Be civil.

Leave a Reply