BOE inches closer to submitting 2017-18 budget proposal

Shelton’s Board of Ed discussed three possible budget scenarios for the 2017-18 fiscal year at its Thursday night meeting, all of which are subject to change before the Superintendent presents his recommendation to the board on Feb. 1.

The board must submit its final budget request to the office of Mayor Mark Lauretti by Feb. 10.

The presentation led by Shelton Superintendent Dr. Chris Clouet and the city’s public school Financial Director Dominic Barone featured scenarios where the board would request a 3.998% increase in the budget, a 3.08% increase, or no increase in budget at all with a substantial amount of layoffs and an increase in class size as a result.

Exploring all options and preparing for the worst

The estimated total budget request for the first scenario would be $73,278,039. This first scenario would be an increase of $2,817,039 (including $210,000 for school bus fuel in city’s budget in current year.) This would allow the board to maintain all of its services

The estimated total budget request for the second scenario would be $72,638,313. This scenario would be a total increase of $2,168,313 (including $210,000 for school bus fuel in city’s budget in current year) and would allow the  district to maintain its core requirements, but not all of its supplemental services.

The final scenario is one that none of the board members hope to explore as it would not include an increase in the budget, the staff size would be reduced (not limited to teachers) and there would be a significant increase in class size.

Clouet said his recommendation will come from the consideration of the requests made my representatives from each of the city’s schools, comments made by board members in each of the budget meetings, retiring staff members, as well as more potential cuts in education funding made by Governor Dannel Malloy.

Potential cuts in state education funds

Although the board didn’t come to an agreement on a final budget to present to the mayor on Thursday, Dr. Clouet said his recommendation for the 2017-18 budget would not look like the third scenario which included staff layoffs and larger class sizes.

Unfortunately, Clouet’s recommendation can’t prevent any layoffs or increase in class size that come as a result of a cut in the state’s education funding.

“The reason we’re looking at these other alternatives is that there’s going to be extra pressure on the city side of things from the standpoint of the state is talking about reducing the Education Cost Sharing Grant… It may likely have an impact on us,” said Board Chairman Mark Holden.  “The unknowns are particularly scary for us as we are 162/167 in the state for per pupil spending. When something bites us in the butt it hurts us more because we have less places to go to look to reduce our spending.”

Clouet said these effects are likely to occur.

Barone said the reductions in education funding would impact every line item on any draft of the budget.

After the meeting Lauretti said the burden of having to create a budget proposal while unknown factors that could affect it are lingering, is normal for Connecticut at this point in time

“It’s all guess work as of right now until the Governor’s numbers come in,” said Lauretti.

The mayor said he’s unsure of how the city will adjust to the anticipated effects of yet another cut to the state funding for education.

“When I got elected we were getting $12 million in state aid. Today we’re down to $5.5 million,” said Lauretti. “There’s going to be a lot of pain and suffering around the state. The state could help if they choose to but it’s hard to get them to do that.”

Clouet said there’s no way to determine a definite number of layoffs or who would be laid off should any need to occur.

Board member Arlene Liscinsky reminded the rest of the members of the 110 layoffs that occurred back in 2010.

“We’ve been down the road of 110 layoffs, 42 or 46 were teachers,” said Liscinsky. “That’s certainly not the scenario I hope we have to choose, but I think people have to be reminded, as does the community have to be reminded, that this has to be in everybody’s mind.”

“We are not sending them a check”

As some of the requests of school representatives were not mentioned in any of the drafted board budget scenarios, neither was the pesky $351,000 bill from Bridgeport for the students the city sends to its magnet school, Fairchild Wheeler.

Bridgeport received the state’s approval and notified 18 districts, including Shelton, that this would be the first year tuition bills would be arriving.

The Shelton board did not mention the bill because it doesn’t intend to pay it.

“They need to understand if they send us a bill, we are not sending them a check,” said Board member Win Oppel.

Bridgeport’s plan is to charge $3,000 for nearly 567 students, providing the city with $1.7 million to put toward cost of its magnet schools.

Mayor Lauretti said despite not always seeing eye-to-eye with the board of ed in terms of the budget process, it shouldn’t be forced to pay that fee to Bridgeport.

“I’m glad they’re not going to support that. They shouldn’t support it. It’s wrong and we’re going to fight that. It’s hard to say too much at this point because it’s a lot of speculation,” said Lauretti.

To aim high or to be ‘reasonable’?

While some members want to aim for the lowest possible budget increase to present to the mayor, others feel as though, based off its past requests, it is better to ask for the exact amount it needs and “work from there.”

“We’ve tried it that way all of the time. Every single year we sit here and we start backwards,” said Liscinsky. “We say City Hall’s not going to want this particular number so let’s not go any higher. We’ve always done it reverse and that doesn’t work. We get nothing anyhow.”

Board member David Gioiello said he agreed with Liscinsky. He said he would like to see the Board of Ed be more aggressive in the amount of funds it requests, despite the assumed feelings of the Board of Aldermen and mayor

“We need to fight for what we need,” said Gioiello.

The board of ed’s next budget meeting is Wednesday, Feb. 1 at 5 p.m. in its headquarters located at 382 Long Hill Ave.