Mayor Mark Lauretti is not reacting well to School Supt. Freeman Burr’s statements that Burr is leaving his position due to ongoing frustration with education budget issues in Shelton.
“It’s disappointing he would say that,” Lauretti said. “I’d characterize it as unfair and a cop-out … This is nonsense.”
On Wednesday night, Burr unexpectedly announced at a Board of Education (BOE) meeting that he would step down at the end of calendar year 2015.
His current employment contract doesn’t expire until 2017.
Lauretti said the Shelton BOE budget has gone from about $32 million in 1992 to about $70 million today, and the system now has about 1,000 fewer students, and yet it still gets the “same results.”
“It’s not about money,” the mayor said, adding that parental involvement in their children’s lives may be the most important factor in how youngsters do in school.
Lauretti, a Republican, was first elected as mayor in 1991. Burr has been superintendent since 2009.
Requests always reduced
Lauretti said school districts never get the funding amount they originally request during the budget process — and this is true in almost all towns, not just Shelton, he insisted.
“Is it any different anywhere else?” he asked, specifically mentioning some nearby towns where residents directly vote on municipal budgets and have repeatedly rejected them in referendums.
Lauretti said education spending is out of control across the state, and he’s not afraid to be the one to publicly say so.
“It’s getting to be obscene in Connecticut,” he said. “We need to draw attention to it, and I’m going to do that … I’m willing to debate anyone on this in any platform.”
Lauretti also questioned how much of a difference superintendents make in a school district’s results, noting he has now dealt with four school superintendents since becoming mayor.
“Maybe he hasn’t gotten the results we need,” the mayor said of Burr.
This year’s budget clash
While Lauretti and Burr have had a cordial relationship and appear to have worked well during the past few years in particular, this year’s budget process has increased tension.
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Burr to step down as superintendent, blames budget woes; click below:
The BOE has requested a $4.2 million increase (or 5%) but Lauretti has recommended a $1.5 million increase (or 2.2%). Burr and BOE members have said getting only a $1.5 million increase could lead to teacher layoffs and the return of pay-to-participate for sports and certain extracurricular activities.
The Board of Aldermen is expected to vote on the city budget on Thursday night, including the BOE allocation.
Alderman Jack Finn says Burr ‘absolutely correct’ for being frustrated about the budget; click below: