Shelton BOE Dems propose $1M more in spending to budget

Photo of Brian Gioiele
The Shelton Board of Education listens to public comment at its Feb. 26 meeting.

The Shelton Board of Education listens to public comment at its Feb. 26 meeting.

Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — Democrats on the Board of Education want to spend $1 million more on the schools than has been proposed for 2020-21, saying the preliminary spending plan would hurt an already woefully unfunded school district.

Their recommendation, however, would mean the district could be asking for as much as a 4.45 percent increase over this year’s budget.

“Flat funding is what we are proposing right now,” said Amanda Kilmartin, who joined fellow Democrat board members Kate Kutash, Diana Meyer and Patti Moonan in proposing several budget additions during the budget discussion at the board’s meeting Feb. 26.

“Flat funding leaves no room for improvement … we’re merely treading water and keeping everything as is,” said Kilmartin. “There are members who feel that this is unacceptable. A discussion is warranted about the needs of schools not just percentage points.”

The Board of Education, while not yet formally voting on a budget, on Feb. 14 submitted a consensus budget request of $74,933,068, a 2.98 percent increase from the present fiscal year. The submission was needed in order to meet the charter’s required deadline. Last year, Mayor Mark Lauretti recommended zero funds for the district.

In all, the Democrats called for $1,068,634 on top of the consensus number, bringing their proposal to $76,001,702. If the city covers some $620,241 in capital requests, the Democrats state that the net increase would be $448,393, for a total of $75,381,461, or a 3.6 percent increase. If the city does not cover the capital costs, the Democrats proposal would be $76,001,702, a 4.45 percent hike.

Kilmartin, who presented the Democrats recommendations, said last year’s zero percent budget increase was actually a cut.

“We have got to make it known what we really need,” said Kutash.

Republicans, who control the board, have joined Democrats in stating that more study is needed to know what to add to the budget.

The four Democrats offered formal recommendations and asked that the board hold a vote next week, since the city needs final numbers as it prepares its budget. Lauretti normally presents his budget proposal to the Board of Aldermen in mid-March.

Outgoing school Superintendent Chris Clouet, sitting next to Beth Smith who starts her job as interim superintendent next week, presented three budget scenarios: increases of 2.98 percent, 2.5 percent and 2 percent — to the board in early February.

The one Clouet recommended called for a 2.98 percent increase, which would offer level services, with the hike mainly to cover contractual increases of present employees.

Finance Director Rick Belden said any reductions to the 2.98 percent increase would force staffing cuts. Belden said going to a 2.5 percent increase would reduce the budget some $300,000 — or five to six teaching positions. A 2 percent increase would mean some nine teacher cuts from the present staff.

One challenge, said Belden, is the district’s need to hire a fourth pre-K teacher as the district brings its program back into compliance with state mandates.

The Democrat recommendations call for $181,000 for four half-time counselors and one full-time counselor; $31,439 for a part-time music teacher; $62,877 for the pre-K teacher; $62,877 for a teacher at either Sunnyside School or Mohegan School, both of which suffer from increased class sizes; $20,000 for a computer tech; and $90,000 for curriculum writing.

On the capital side, the Democrats proposed $620,241 in spending, with $449,721 earmarked for computers for the 1-to-1 program for students in grades 5 through 12 and $71,566 for textbooks at Shelton High School.

Board member Amy Romano will be combining the Democrat proposals with some of her own and offer those figures at the next board meeting, planned for an undetermined date next week, she said.