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[Poll] Trumbull Schools Get a 3.47% Increase

First Selectman Tim Herbst's budget recommendation passed the Board of Finance Tuesday night. The Board of Education had asked for 5.07 percent. The finance board also restored a library position.

All-day kindergarten is now in the Board of Education's court.

The Board of Finance approved First Selectman Tim Herbst's recommended increase of 3.47 percent, which covers status quo and restorations of positions and items cut last year.

The Town Council has the ultimate approval of budget, totalling $146,636,946, but cannot add funding beyond the first selectman's recommendation. The school's portion is $99,949,283. The finance board shaved off $153,562 in total.

Now the school board must find funding for all-day kindergarten if it wants the program implemented, something Chairman Stephen Wright vowed to do, after calling the increase "wonderful."

"We owe it to the kids" to find a way to fund the program, Wright said. "How to do it is where the elbow grease will be needed."

He added that he didn't mean he believes the increase "will accommodate what the board believes is needed to do all that it would like. It means the board is prepared to move on through the budget process."

Finance Board member Thomas Tesoro opened the meeting proposing adding $873,000 to fund all-day kindergarten from the operating budget, bringing the board's increase to 5.04 percent.

Tesoro said he was one of the first democrats to support the idea of the program seven years ago provided there was enough space and the program would run in all town elementary schools.

"We're at the point where we have to make a decision. If you believe in it, you find [the funding]," he said."It's time for this board to put their money where their money where their mouth is."

It was rejected 3-3. He and fellow democrat Steve Lupien, and republican Andy Palo voted in favor. Chairwoman Elaine Hammers, Paul Lavoie and David Rutigliano, all republicans, opposed it.

Tesoro later added that the school board should not be blamed if all-day kindergarten was not implemented because it is the finance board that did not approve the funding. He said he didn't want to create any funding cliffs in paying for it.

"That means there will be no all-day kindergarten," he said after the vote.

But opponents of the motion said the finance board appropriates the money and the school board decides how to spend it.

"The decision rests with the Board of Education. They determine how they will spend their funds. We have always emphasized [that] it is their choice," Hammers said.

Added Lavoie, "I have a strong feeling there is so much they can do in their budget."

Tesoro replied that has overcrowded classes, more study halls and reduced staffing that need to be addressed first.

The final vote for 3.47 percent was 4-1-1, with Hammers against and Rutigliano abstaining.

Another motion from Tesoro, to add $20,000 in case of a referendum, failed. The referendum ability was approved in the Town Charter in November 2011 and has not been tested yet. 

Code Red, Director of Children's Services and a Police Dog

Other items prompting discussion were:

  • Increasing the Economic Development Director's salary to $95,000 a year. No one has been hired yet. It passed, while money was cut from an account funding economic development activities for the town. The new director can request funding though supplemental appropriations, town officials said.
  • A second police dog, which was cut. Also, purchasing four police vehicles, which was approved. Hammers also noted that a dozen police officers are eligible for retirement at the moment.
  • Funding for the town Animal Control Officer's office to cover summer weekends, which was approved. 
  • Additional funding for , which was not approved.
  • Purchasing an emergency alert system called Code Red, which was approved at a cost of $19,500. It includes an option for seniors to get automatic calls daily. If they do not answer after two tries, police are automatically dispatched.
  • No additional funding for the Youth Department. It had to cancel activities last year because of lack of funding, but this year that will not happen.
  • Allocating $54,491 for a director of Children's Services, which Herbst did not fund in his budget proposal.

The Town Council Finance Committee will hold its own hearings next and vote in April.

Dana March 14, 2012 at 12:33 PM
I am very pleased to see the results of the vote, and more importantly, BOE Chairman Wright's opinion on Full Day Kindergarten.
TrumbullSr March 14, 2012 at 01:13 PM
The board of Finance seems to think that the BOE can spin gold out of flax. ADK should stand in line behind restoring all the cuts made last year. While it would be great for the kids just starting school, it is vital to prepare those in school to meet the challenges of college and the work place. It isn't fair to those who did not benefit from ADK to sacrifice again. Fund it of postpone it until we can afford it.
JR March 14, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Any explanation as to why Rutigliano abstained?
Paul G. Littlefield March 14, 2012 at 03:00 PM
I continue to be opposed to full day kindergarten on the grounds that it is not educational, it is stress inducing on very young children, it does little for the parents as the end of the day is mid afternoons, and, being that FDK is child care activity, plain and simple, it is a nonessential expense to the taxpayer. The child's needs would be better served by going home from kindergarten as currently is the case. There are schools across the country which are abandoning FDK and Pre-K classes because of the added expense without an educational component. Despite assurances to the contrary, the economy lacks any real prospects for improvement under current state and federal policies. Therefore, tax revenues, at present rates, will experience shortfalls, as more businesses retrench and others fail altogether. This is just not the time for the BOE to introduce new nonessential innovations while previous cuts in educational curricula and services continue. It is detrimental to the older student to be denied educational advantages, which they will not recover, while the 5 and 6 year olds have 12 years ahead of them in their educational pursuits.
LTL March 14, 2012 at 06:18 PM
Full day kindergarten is an unnecessary waste of taxpayer dollars. My son will be entering Hillcrest in the fall and did just fine without FDK. I had to pay for his afterschool care out of my own pocket, while the parents who support FDK are looking for the town's taxpayers to pay it for them. Bottom line, there is no benefit to it other than to the parents who will benefit by having their kids in school longer. These are 5 and 6 year olds who should not be kept in school all day. If a parent wishes to supplement their child's kindergarten education, then it should be done in their home by the parent.
Thomas Tesoro March 14, 2012 at 07:54 PM
Mr. Littlefield and LTL, In spite of Mr. Wright's optimism, in my opinion, without creative solutions (i.e. gimmicks or one time solutions) there can be no FDK without further erosion of the current k through 12 program. The Republicans did not fund the program. My hope is this is the last time we hear the phrase Full Day Kindergarten leave the lips of a Republican candidate. Sorry Dana but while you and I agree on the importance of FDK the hope for FDK will rest now on whether or not we as a Town are willing to bear bad fiscal practices to support the program. I will say this, if Mr. Wright and the other members of the BOE can actually find 873,000 dollars of real ongoing savings to payy for the program without further eroding our current K through 12 program.Then I will come on here and TChat (yes, I m one of the vermin) and the CT Post and the Trumbull Times and say that I was wrong. Just remember though, if they can't, it is not thier fault but the fault of those who make promises but fail to provide the funding. A Trumbull citizen said it best: "If you believe in the program fund it in the operating budget. No Gimmicks." he was right.
Mark E Smith March 14, 2012 at 08:11 PM
My take will be they find the money through saving in the energy account due to the warm winter and the insurance account to additional saving in premiums. Then they also have additional surpluses as well. That being said, everyone know that the First Selectman asked for this, the Democrats know that a large part of the community want FDK, the BoE was given about 1% more than the FS was going to give in order to fund this so the BoEd. will find the money to do so. Its too big of a political football for the Democrat controlled BoE to not do. Will there be alot of smoke, fire and brim stone? Yep, guaranteed. However in the end no one want to have even the smallest of blame on their hands whether its the BoEd who will have to actually now have to stand for contested elections or the FS. It will get done. M
Mark E Smith March 14, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Given him a break. It was his first budget, there is ALOT to learn and know, takes a few years to get a good understanding of what is happening from the parlimentary terminology to the account adjustments to the various motions have to be made. Dave R is an intelligent man I think this was an honest mistake that anyone new to the BoF can and will make.
Cindy Katske March 14, 2012 at 08:58 PM
Mark, You say that "everyone know[s] that ... the BoE was given about 1% more than the FS was going to give in order to fund this" (full day kindergarten). Are you really saying that the FS did include funding for FDK? I didn't know that. The FS didn't say that in his lengthy budget transmittal letter. I don't recall him saying that at any time. Can you tell me when he said it? As a matter of fact, what the FS DID say in his transmittal letter was that the BOE should utilize this year's unspent monies for one-time costs and purchases--an "alternate revenue source"--to implement FDK. This is the polar opposite of providing an extra 1% of funding for FDK.
Paul G. Littlefield March 14, 2012 at 09:42 PM
Mark E. Smith made a couple of statements, not that they are his way of thinking, that need clarifying. First, you say that the democrat majority on the BOE knows "a large part of the community want FDK." How has this been documnented, the same way I can document that a very large majority of taxpayers do not want FDK? Secondly, you speculate that the BOE will utilize cost savings realised by an unusually mild winter. If the weather does continue to be milder than normal and there is a substantial cost savings in lighting and fuel, this would be a one time savings. Are you suggesting that a decision to adopt an annually recuring expense on the basis of a one time saving would be financially prudent and wise? Mark, would you please clarify how you came to making that connection.
Thomas Tesoro March 14, 2012 at 09:48 PM
In a rare moment, I agree with Mark. I remember my first year on the BOF (7 budgets ago) as I sat a virtual mute as Bernie Helfrige, Bill Crooks, Katthy McGannon, George Areson and even our alternate Joe Schlig did their things. I learned a lot and I hope that Dave will loook back on his first year and think kindly of me as well. it is a learning experience.
Thomas Tesoro March 14, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Paul Littlefield, I support FDK and I know you do not and I respect that position because a number of citizens, including parents whith children of that age, are not certain of its benefits. That being said, the Republicans ran on FDK and, in my opinion, had an obligation to put those funds in the operating budget. That is where an ongoing expense belongs. They will say they funded it but they didn't. They will say use surplus finds but what happens next year. You are right, such an approach makes little fiscal sense.
JR March 15, 2012 at 11:31 AM
Not looking to throw stones.

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