Column: BOE budget needs to be adequately funded

Board of Education Chairman Mark Holden read this statement at the Board of Apportionment & Taxation budget workshop on Wednesday, April 10, and agreed to publish it in the Shelton Herald.
Education is the single largest expense of any community. The more you know about the Shelton Board of Education, the more you will appreciate the fact we are good stewards of taxpayer dollars. I’m also pleased the Board of Education (BoE) and Board of Aldermen (BoA) have an agreement to meet on a quarterly basis in the future.

I’ve heard some elected officials claim the BoE mismanages money. I find that truly frustrating. The reality is that Shelton has one of the lowest tax rates in Connecticut. For that very reason the Board of Alderman is forced to give us one of the lowest budgets per student in the State.
I’m certain none of the BoA, BoE, or Board of Apportionment & Taxation (A&T) members ran for office just to do an “OK” job. The goals weren’t to make Shelton merely an “acceptable” place to live. We have higher goals. We all love our community. We want to make Shelton the best place it can be.
For members of the Board of Education, making Shelton the best place it can be means making Shelton public schools the best place for students to prepare for successful futures. Thanks to the hard work, creativity, and dedication of the superintendent, our administrators, and teachers, our student achievement continued to improve last year. We are close to the top 25 percent for student achievement in Connecticut. This fall, the State recognized four of our schools as schools of distinction.
The Board of Education will do its best with whatever budget it is given, but there have already been some significant reductions to keep the budget request to a 3 percent increase. We will do our best to look for the least damaging changes we can make, but there is no way to cut $2.17 million from our budget for next year without cutting meat and bone from our structure.
We’re looking into alternative options for medical insurance. It’s too soon to know if or how much savings it would produce, but it’s a good place to start because that’s an area that would have no impact on the service we provide to our students.
We’re looking at closing our buildings on weekends and before dinner on weekdays. This doesn’t hurt classrooms, but it does hurt our goal of developing the whole student. Scouts, indoor sports including the rec leagues, drama and music programs, STEM and literacy nights, and our robotics program are just some of the activities that would probably be hurt.
Additional staff reductions will probably be necessary.
The city could help by taking on some of the expenses we included in our budget. In the past, the City has purchased computers and textbooks for the school system. It would be a huge help and wouldn’t impact the minimum budget requirement for next year.
Most of our instructional computers are Google chromebooks. They’re very cost effective, but Google refuses to update the software on older machines, which means our educational software, Google docs, and the Smarter Balance Assessment tests won’t work on them after approximately six years. We should be replacing one-sixth of them every year. Computers are no longer capital items.
In past years, the education budget didn't keep pace with inflation because it would have required raising taxes. This year the mayor proposes to raise taxes while flat funding education.
I request the city of Shelton fund the Board of Education budget as presented to the Board of Alderman with the approximate 2.99 percent increase. The education of Shelton’s children cannot be ignored. If our children are to compete successfully for jobs 10, 20, and 30 years from now, they need a robust education that provides them rich opportunities to grow, think, experience, and learn in ways that today’s adults can’t imagine.
Mark Holden is chairman of the Board of Education.