This year’s budget conversation should go a lot smoother than last year’s thanks to a handful of retirements and all-day kindergarten.
The budget actually increased $735,175 and more than half of that is a contractual increase for teachers. But a variety of decreases – big and small – offset the teachers’ salaries and render a zero increase budget.
For instance, the schools will save $117,990 in transportation costs next year when they eliminate a mid-day bus run for kindergarteners. They also will save $55,000 in fuel oil after switching to natural gas.
Another set of cuts initiated by the superintendent include:
Six teachers are retiring, which will save $300,000
One reduction in the high school English staff, which saves $53,000
Two percent was shaved off of operational accounts, which saved $105,000
The legal account was reduced by $18,000
The contract of one reading tutor at the middle school expired, saving $25,000
One high school math teacher went from full- to part-time, saving $42,000.
And, a short list of additional cuts includes:
$41,000 saved in tutors
$20,000 in kindergarten paras
$15,000 in extra curricular stipends
$65,000 in custodian contract
Two percent shaved from the instructional account - $65,000
$20,000 in teacher evaluations
$17,693 special education
“I don’t think you’ve heard anything that’s going to cause a huge amount of concern,” said Graner. “No cuts to music, no cuts to Project O.”
Business Manager Bill Merrill said that when savings are seen in the school budget, it can be a little misleading because of what’s missing from the budget.
“There’s plenty of places to spend it on things we just don’t do,” he said of a long list of repairs and maintenance items the schools can’t afford to do. “Once it’s taken out of the budget, it’s never added back in.”
Board member Tom Malone said, “this process has been painstaking and we attend to every details. We’ve put forth a very lean budget and still meets the standard of what we require,”
But then, Malone, who serves on the board's finance committee asked, "how much meat is there left to cut off before we get to the bone?”
Merrill also pointed out that in 2009, they spent $15, 600,000 for teaching staff and contracts this year amount to 15,137,000.
“We’ve cut the staff with the decreasing school population, the teaching salaries have gone down (in the budget) and they’ve gotten raises, said Merrill. “We staff to the number of students we have, not just because they were here last year.”
“As lean as we have gotten we were still able to achieve a couple of priorities that were absolutely big time, and that was all–day kindergarten,” said board member Mimi Peck-Llewellyn.
The Board of Education usually meets on the first and third Wednesday of every month at 7 p.m. in the Media Center at Ledyard High School. The public is encouraged to attend.