‘We’re open for business’: Shelton uses budget surplus to save school jobs

Exterior view of the Board of Education offices in Shelton, Conn. Nov. 5, 2020.

Exterior view of the Board of Education offices in Shelton, Conn. Nov. 5, 2020.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — For the first time in years, the school district will not be reducing staff.

Superintendent Ken Saranich, at last month’s Board of Education meeting, confirmed that use of more than $400,000 in surplus funds from the 2020-21 education budget helped guarantee there would be no staff cuts entering the 2021-22 school year.

“We’re open for business,” Saranich said.

Saranich said he and his central office team began examining the budget for savings in order to prevent staff reductions. The district has lost some 40 positions over the past two years through layoffs and retirements — positions left unfilled.

“I was always committed to not cutting staff,” he said.

The surplus funds have come as a boon for the district. The Board of Education has also approved sending two separate payments to the city of Bridgeport — $150,000 for the 2020-21 school year and $400,000 for past due payments, all for Shelton students attending magnet schools in Bridgeport.

Bridgeport had originally sought $852,000 and had given the Shelton schools until mid-June to pay up.

BOE Vice Chair James Orazietti said Mayor Mark Lauretti negotiated with Bridgeport officials to reduce that amount to $652,000. The Shelton school board, at its meeting June 23, approved the settlement deal in which the Shelton school system will pay $400,000 from its expected 2020-21 budget surplus, with the city covering the remaining $252,000.

Board Chair Kathy Yolish said the final surplus amount remaining after these payments is unknown, with insurance bills agreed to put any leftover surplus money into a dedicated medical account.

City Finance Director Paul Hiller said the money will be placed in the Medical Reserve account, that is essentially a “rainy day” fund for the city and the Board of Education for potential overages on the medical insurance accounts.

“The Board of Ed has indicated that it might be in the $230,000 range and should have a more accurate estimate by July 15,” Hiller said.

Orazietti said placing the excess funds in this account “encourages the BOE to save rather than spend frivolously on non-essential items that has all too often been a past practice.”