Trumbull Schools Supt. Ralph Iassogna made an impassioned plea for a budget of $91,803,405 for 2012-13, 4.98 percent above the current year’s, earlier this week.
He told the Board of Education more than once that he “understands the financial constraints,” and that he “will continue to use taxpayer dollars effectively.” Senior staff members followed, describing their programs Tuesday and Thursday.
Principal Robert Tremaglio and other principals; the Curriculum director; the director of Pupil Personnel Services; and managers of the technology, transportation and facilities department, expressed concern.
The presentation included what was missing and what was included.
The only new program proposed was Full/Extended Day Kindergarten, and though its cost will be less than one percent of the requested budget, its fate remains unclear.
New Budget Format
Iassogna presented the budget in a new format. Previously the base was the “status quo” budget – last year’s program updated to include new contractual obligations (negotiated salary increases) and enrollment changes. New programs and other initiatives were added to create the final budget.
This year the base is called the “Core Budget.” Again, it is the prior budget with updated costs. It is supplemented by restorations, established initiatives and new mandates.
The Core request is $90.6 million, a 3.59 percent increase over this year. Restorations total $337,700, Established Initiatives $873,700 and New Mandates $7,500. Together these three add only 1.39 percent.
The only new internally generated program is Full/Extended Day Kindergarten. But here Trumbull is behind the curve, according to Diane Pomposello, a parent of twins enrolled in the pre-school program. She told the board more than half of Fairfield County’s districts offer full or extended day programs, while Trumbull is one of only four offering only half day.
Other speakers came down on all sides. Full day kindergarten is an educational necessity; its benefits are overrated and disappear in elementary school; it attracts double income and single parent families to Trumbull; it is no more than child care for working parents.
And there has been confusion about its cost. A study for the board published in August, 2010 placed it at under $300,000 by adding money saved by eliminating teaching positions due to declines in elementary enrollment. But other reductions forced these dollars to be applied elsewhere. The result is that the cost is now $873,700.
The restorations were:
- 2.0 elementary school secretaries whose loss in the current budget building principals called a “safety issue” because part of their job is to electronically open the front door. In addition, phones ring longer, calls go directly to voice mail during lunch when there is no administrative coverage in the front office and principals occasionally perform time sensitive clerical tasks in lieu of their own responsibilities.
- Eight intern positions eliminated last spring. Interns are elementary education majors completing their degree requirements. At $7,500 per intern, they are cost effective enhancements for program flexibility, they reduce the need for substitutes and lend day-to-day support to classroom teachers.
- And the return of $123,700 of Curriculum Writing deleted for this year. Curriculum Director Linda Paslov told the board that she has to complete 69 such projects next year. Twenty-eight are overdue to the point that they are out of compliance with board policy requiring a five year revision cycle.
During board questioning, member Deborah Herbst asked what “overdue” means – how “overdue is overdue?”
Paslov said she will provide the answer for the board Tuesday.
Eight of the projects will be major efforts due to upcoming standards enhancements. Only three are entirely new efforts.
The mandated addition is $7,500 to train Michael McGrath, the director of Pupil Personnel Services to serve as the District Climate Specialist. He will oversee the Anti-Bullying mandate approved by the state legislature last July. The program’s purpose is to make all schools more welcoming to all students, and to identify and apply sanctions to in-person and cyber bullies.
Excluded from the budget were $2.3 million requested by the administrative staff, but held back by the superintendent. Board member Lisa Labella requested a list of the exclusions.
The list provided by Iassogna is made up of 12 certified staff positions, 18 non-certified positions, $475,000 of other operating expenses and another year’s delay in implementing a state mandated technology plan ($461,000).
To these could be added more certified staff and para-professionals; fewer custodians, despite added space due to the start up of and the renovation at the High School; and previously deferred curriculum writing, textbook purchases, investments in technology and building maintenance.
Among the “make do” activities required to live within recent budgets are substituting study halls and other classes for reading and math support in the middle schools and for oversubscribed electives at THS; using older textbooks and software; recycling 12-year old computers from THS to the lower grades; and cutting back on facilities maintenance.
A third meeting will be held on Dec. 13 to tie up the budget discussions. The board will vote on the budget on Jan. 3, 2012, and forward its approved request to the First Selectman.
A tri-board meeting of the boards of Finance and Education and the Town Council is scheduled for Dec. 14 at 7:30 p.m. in .