Superintendent of Schools Scott Schoonmaker termed himself totally blindsided by the Town Council’s decision last evening at its budget workshop to cut the proposed Board of Education budget by roughly $1.25 million, reducing it from the to the $29.4 million budget by which the school district operates this fiscal year.
“I’m beyond bewildered,” the superintendent said after the 6-3 vote took place.
Voting against the motion to reduce the BOE budget were Town Council members Rose Marie Angeloni, Andrew Esposito III and Joseph E. Faughnan.
“All day kindergarten is gone,” said Schoonmaker, referring to a matter that has been the . “It’s a sad day. The children will suffer.”
Schoonmaker also predicted that the district would have to lay off staff to meet the total the council approved.
The decision followed a sometimes testy exchange by Deputy Mayor Alfred D. Rose, who proposed the reduction, and Faughnan, who argued against it.
Faughnan said he was prepared to concede that the line of communications between the BOE and the town had been less than ideal, but he also wondered where the district would find $700,000 — or, a good chunk of the monies the council cut — that the council members could not accomodate in the budget elsewhere.
He could not, he said repeatedly, comprehend removing the entire sum.
Previously, Director of Finance had affirmed that the school district expected to recoup $336,199 from the state in special education funding that was not encumbered and, so, could come back to the BOE. In response to a line of questioning by Angeloni on monies spent for for personnel over the last three years that now approached an annual expense of approximately $250,000, the superintendent said that much of that sum had initially come from Title II funding.
Referring to the number of houses persons in the town have lost in the harsh economy, Deputy Mayor Rose asked, “What about the 240 foreclosures?”
“Someone has to stand up for the taxpayer,” said Councilman Donald J. Fucci II, who also voted to reduce the school budget by the $1.25 million amount.
The decision not to increase the school side of the budget seemed the lay of the land at last evening’s workshop. As the council began to work its way slowly through the municipal side of the budget, it examined the cost of postal stamps, questioned the cost of binding publications that the state mandates and also cut the number of classes that one town official teaches.
Town Manager remarked that it was obvious the council was trying to eliminate any increase in the budget expenditures on the town side as well as on the schools.
Early in the evening, Councilman Vincent P. Caprio noted, “We’re having a rough time. We have businesses that are leaving the town. We have 243 active foreclosures. Heat went up. Oil went up. It’s going to be a tough year.”
“I want the best for everybody, but it’s a bad year," he added.
The proposed town budget had amounted to $12.8 million before last evening’s cuts began, up from $12.4 million from the current fiscal year.