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Board of Education Discusses Proposed 2024-25 Budget Cuts



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The Board of Education presented proposed cuts and reductions for the 2024-25 education budget and unanimously approved the budget adjustment totaling $1,939,436 during its Tuesday, May 21 meeting.

This meeting comes after the education budget failed during the initial budget referendum on Tuesday, April 23, with 1,701 No votes to 1,194 Yes votes, and later passed at the second referendum on Tuesday, May 14, with 2,075 Yes votes to 1,198 No votes. This was the first time that a budget has been voted down since 2013.

The cuts represent both $1,408,307 made by the Legislative Council following the first budget failure as well as $531,129 in cuts made by the Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance prior to the referendum.

During her Chair Report, Board of Education Chairman Alison Plante thanked the community for coming out to vote again last week before acknowledging that the discussion about the district leadership’s proposed cuts and reductions will be incredibly difficult for everyone.

“This conversation is a very difficult one for all of us, because we’ll be forced to make trade-offs between great things,” Plante said. “Ultimately, the board will do whatever we can to reduce the impact on the students.”

Superintendent of Schools Chris Melillo followed by saying his administrative team worked hard to come up with a plan to maintain the school system’s instruction core and that they made it a point to keep classroom sizes low. However, he added that, through the referendum process, they had to make some really difficult decisions.

Due to the long set of adjustments proposed by the district leadership, Melillo walked through each line and provided a brief overview of each topic.

The numbers for the cuts and reductions categories presented during the meeting are tentative. While the BOE has hammered out the vast majority of the budget, there is a small remaining amount of $15,935 that they still have to further reduce and is currently left as to be determined.

Discussion around the 24-25 budget reductions started with staffing, which saw over $600,000 in total reductions. These include not hiring the additional Board Certified Behavioral Analyst the district was looking to hire; not hiring anyone to fill in the position of two Newtown High School teachers, one social studies teacher who is retiring and one English teacher who is leaving; the full elimination of the Health and Wellness Coordinator who works on staff wellness and community education; consolidating some central office secretarial positions; a reduction of one full-time custodian, which, while they said they are evaluating where that would be, would likely be in NHS as the current custodian in that position is leaving; and more.

The BOE considered cutting new additional teaching positions, one fourth grade teacher at Head O’Meadow Elementary School and one first grade teacher at Hawley Elementary School, for $134,278. Mellilo said that it was his recommendation to add those positions for next year.

For HOM, Melillo said that, if fourth grade were to have four teachers, class sizes for next year would be 18-18-18-17. Budget cuts would then increase class sizes to 24-24-23. As for Hawley, Mellilo said that, if first grade were to have four teachers, class sizes would be 15-16-16-16. Budget cuts would increase class sizes to 21-21-21.

These two elementary teacher positions were reinstated into the budget after further discussion later in the meeting.

The BOE also considered cutting four security guards at the elementary schools, leaving one guard in each, for $134,278. However, these positions did not get cut from the budget. Another cut consideration was a kindergarten through sixth grade Spanish program with four full-time positions attached, for $271,262, which also did not get cut from the budget.

Other Salary reductions came to over $250,000, which included cuts to the proposed additions to the summer school, cuts to non-certified allowance, cuts to the additional hours for an elementary school library para, and tech liaison stipends.

Building & Grounds reductions came to over $197,500. These included cuts to building and ground general repairs, rental equipment, supplies, and repairs to the high school, middle school, and intermediate school. There were also cuts to excise tax fuel credit and oil adjustment.

Cuts to Contracted Services came out to around $59,000, and include reductions to Newtown Middle School’s Rosetta Stone program and the discontinuation of the personalized pathways portion of i-Ready.

Textbooks faced $11,363 in cuts, as the social studies textbooks at NMS were going to be replaced for the aforementioned amount. Mellilo said that the textbooks were “not at the end of their life” and “could go for another year or two.”

Total Equipment reductions came to $65,000, and included a conference table at Middle Gate Elementary School, a French horn for NHS, a high jump mat for NHS, and a $50,000 Chromebook reduction that will be recurring going forward.

Mellilo said that they were able to pull $9,000 out of Transportation, specifically for external transportation services for NHS, as All Star Transportation has been consistent in providing transportation for the school’s athletes.

He continued by saying that there were also $43,875 in cuts towards School Level Supplies, as RIS, NMS, and NHS were all able to provide the board with multiple line item reductions. These were recommended by the administrators at each school.

The last category discussed was Benefits, which faced a $100,000 cut in Other Post-Employment Benefits.

Reporter Jenna Visca can be reached at jenna@thebee.com.

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