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Trumbull Supt. Explains the Proposed 2013-2014 Ed Budget

The Board of Finance held its first hearing of the proposed education budget Monday night in Town Hall. The school board will have to cut $1.862 million from its spending plan but $6 million is expected to come from federal aid and state grants.

Schools Supt. Ralph Iassogna unveiled the district's proposed spending plan to the Board of Finance, noting that the school board must cut $1.862 million.

First Selectman Tim Herbst has proposed a 2.74 percent increase for the school district, after across board departmental cuts totalling $5.5 million.

The school board had asked for a 4.56 percent increase to cover a small staff increase and salaries and benefit increases.

School Board Chairman Steve Wright called the proposal a "best estimate of expenses."

He said the board listened to the Gibson savings report that suggested efficiencies and improvements. One suggested improvement area was technology, leading to the preparation of "Project Catapult,"  so named because it will bring the district's technology up-to-date quickly. Some of the schools' computers are 12 years old.

Wright added that new state tests will be administered on the computer.

Schools Supt. Ralph Iassogna noted that if the school district becomes self-insuring, it could save $1.6 million. That will not in happen in the near future, but the district is moving away from pension plans.

The proposed budget preserves class size and saves money "without compromising services," Iassogna added.

While having to make cuts, Iassogna said he expects as much as $6 million in aid from federal and state grants.

He praised the district, saying 99 percent of students graduate Trumbull High School, 94 percent go onto college and 77 percent go to four-year-colleges. The district also spends $12,695 per pupil per year, below the state average, and still achieves comparable or better state results compared to its peer communities.

Asked how the Fairchild Memorial Magnet High School would impact Trumbull (because it's built on state land abutting Trumbull), Iassogna replied that it would be negligible until the students reached 10th - 12th grade.

Security protocols have been vetted and "tweaked" and the board will ask the Board of Finance for $800,000 for security, he said.

Meanwhile, replacing the football field and the track would be bonded. Project catapult would also be bonded along with townside technology needs, Iassogna said.

"The majority of the bond is replacement equipment," said Jeff Hackett, director of Technology.

Smart Boards and Guidance Counselors

Other topics discussed were guidance counselors and making all schools equal in terms of technology.

A Daniels Farm School parent said the school still has chalkboards in some classrooms.

Smartboards and ELMOs are the wave of future education because they are more interactive. They allow virtual frog dissection and can play video, said one principal.

"It is the way to go now in education," said school board Vice Chairman Deborah Herbst.

The Board of Finance also asked about the extra guidance counselor for Trumbull High School.

School officials said in addition to dealing with colleges, Trumbull High's guidance counselors deal with students' personal problems.

Other communities have one counselor to 250 students, while THS has a ratio of 1:290.

"I give these people a tremendous amount of credit," said finance board member Cindy Penkoff.

The school board meets tonight at 7 p.m. in the Long Hill Administration Building to further discuss the budget. 

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