The Town Council charged the North Branford Board of Education with . At the June 18 meeting, the BOE’s budget sub-committee presented the proposed cuts in order to reach its final budget.
After voting on the cuts, there was a heated discussion regarding the process in which the budget cuts were decided on. , both new to the BOE this year, questioned the process.
“This is the single most important thing we do and it shouldn’t happen in subcommittee,” said Ferraiolo. “We just cut a whole million dollars out of the budget without the chance to discuss it. It feels like we’re laying off a ton of teachers.”
Superintendent Scott Schoonmaker explained that all certified teachers were retained and that, due to retirements and resignations, the BOE had the opportunity to choose not to fill some positions.
Director of Curriculum Sara Querfeld then explained that the BOE operates by subcommittees that “do all the labor behind the scenes” before making a recommendation to the full board.
Board member David McMahon suggested that even if a BOE member is not on the budget subcommittee, it can be beneficial to sit in on the meetings, while vice chair Shannon Miscio said that the time for discussion is prior to voting on each motion.
Cutting $1 Million
The 10 retirements (story to follow) and several resignations allowed the BOE to save several teaching positions.
“Several of the retirements are not being refilled and those were the true cost-savings between salary and benefits,” said Schoonmaker.
Board chair Marcey Onofrio was also grateful that the retirements were able to help save money, noting that each retirement saved two jobs and that “rather than laying off, we’re shifting things around.”
Positions that were eliminated included full-time teachers at the following levels: grade 6 and a grade 3; a grade 4 position is being eliminated from the BOE budget but being paid for with a grant; reading consultant at , English teacher at and a physical education teacher at NBHS. Part-time positions eliminated include a music teacher at , a physical education position at TVES, a science teacher at NBHS.
Other changes include reducing a full-time guidance counselor to part-time at NBHS, eliminating two permanent substitute positions, replacing the part-time Bridges teacher (a retiree) with a full-time employee, which amounts to a cost-savings due to seniority, and laying off the NBHS greenhouse paraprofessional.
Other cuts made included health insurance reductions, building allocation budgets, fuel savings and transportation savings. Ferraiolo was pleased that the BOE agreed to take a chance on putting the transportation contract out to bid. The town’s current provider, Dattco, came back as the low bidder. Dattco has serviced the town since 1993.
“I’m glad the company did right by us,” said Ferraiolo.
Schoonmaker noted that because the transportation contract went out to bid and due to savings on fuel costs, the BOE saved about $80,000.
“A lot of things went our way,” he said. “You can call it luck, but at the end of the day, we’re happy we were able to salvage things and move on. We’re in tough times and we were able to work collectively as a team to be flexible with pre-K to grade 12 sharing a burden moving forward.”
Full-Day K Is a Go
While there was $1.2 million to cut, the BOE got a helping hand from the Town Council, which shifted the special education reimbursement funds totaling $450,000 back to the schools’ budget. The BOE was originally told the reimbursement was $300,000.
“The additional $150,000 kept ,” said Schoonmaker. “Without the reimbursement funds, we were looking at more layoffs. I want to commend our administration team on their efforts in making sacrifices to focus on class sizes and initiatives going forward.”
Schoonmaker noted that without the funds, the cuts could’ve gone much deeper–at the cost of eight teachers. While there was some dissension due to the process, the board members who spoke, spoke in .
“I’m ecstatic about it,” said Miscio. “It’s such a proactive approach and giving the children such an opportunity that will not only help with education but socially as well.”
The next regular Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Thursday, July 19, 2012. For more from the June 14 meeting, check out the .