Clouet: Budget puts district at 'disadvantage'

The spectre of flat-funding with the coming fiscal year budget has Shelton’s top school administrator saying any such action would put the district at a “disadvantage.”
School Superintendent Dr. Chris Clouet, in a statement to the Shelton Herald Friday — two days after learning that Mayor Mark Lauretti’s budget includes a mill rate increase and no additional funding for the Board of Education from the 2018-19 fiscal year budget — questioned city officials on their vision for the future of "Shelton’s youth.
“While the (Board of Education) is cognizant of costs associated with the education of our students and works diligently each year to use allocated financial resources in a responsible manner, our students deserve better than just a ‘discussion’ of taxes and mill rates,” stated Clouet.
Residents learned, if approved by the Board of Aldermen, the city budget would include a mill rate hike for the first time in a decade. Lauretti's budget proposal stands at $127,569,660 budget, which would result in a mill rate of 22.62, a 2.12% increase from last year’s 22.15.
The most major budget hit comes with the Board of Education’s budget, which would be “flat funded” under the mayor’s plan, receiving $72,700,000 instead of the $74,873,729 (a 2.99% increase over the 2018-19 fiscal year) requested by board members in late January. Even with a 2.99% budget increase, school administrators stated one administrator and 14 teachers would still need to be eliminated.
“The vision for the education of our youth on the part of the leadership group at City Hall is unclear,” said Clouet. “The decision to not recognize that costs are going up at a modest rate in all sectors of our nation — including schools — puts Shelton’s youth at a disadvantage. The city leadership should be able to coherently express to the citizens of Shelton, people of all ages and backgrounds, what they hope to accomplish for the next generation.”
“The only time Shelton has a bad education system is around budget time,” responded Lauretti in an interview with the Shelton Herald Monday, “after that, Shelton has a great system.”
Lauretti points to the city’s stable mill rate, which will rise — to 22.62, a 2.12% increase from last year’s 22.15 — resulting in the first tax increase for the first time in a decade.
“It’s not fair to point to me,” said Lauretti about the Board of Education budget. “I don’t manage their money. I manage the city’s money. How am I doing?”
Lauretti’s decision does not come as much of a surprise, since the longtime Shelton mayor stated in January that he did not plan to include any increases for the Board of Education in this budget because of, in his words, its inability to “manage money.”
Clouet disagreed, calling Shelton a well-run district, stating that local student results are on par or exceed many socioeconomically similar districts with higher per pupil expenditures. He added that four of Shelton schools were recognized by the state as “Schools of Distinction.”
“There must be a vision of what it truly means to support and prepare the youth to be the adults of the future,” stated Clouet. “It is part of the reciprocity among generations. Our district has a vision. We have a well-crafted Vision of the Graduate.”
Clouet said the district aspires to have local schools rank in the top 25% of all of Connecticut’s school districts in terms of test scores, including SATs.
“We recognize the rapid pace of change that impacts every household, every business and every field of work,” said Clouet. “Our School of Innovation, our robotics teams, our thoughtful milestones representing what we expect of our thousands of students, and so many more examples reflect us as a school district and as a community. It is what makes our schools vibrant places where our young people grow into confident and capable adults.”
brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com