Letter: Shelton school board Democrats say alderman fail to understand district budget needs

Below is a Letter to the Editor from this week's Shelton Herald. If you'd like to have a letter to the editor run next week, email letters to brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com

Below is a Letter to the Editor from this week's Shelton Herald. If you'd like to have a letter to the editor run next week, email letters to brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com

Contributed photo

To the Editor:

Once again, our city has demonstrated that our children’s education is not a priority.

As the Democratic members of the Shelton Board of Education, we were disappointed over the budget crumbs given to the Shelton Public School System for the upcoming 2021-22 school year. In our joint budget meeting with the aldermen, our superintendent and his team clearly explained how our district will be using various federal grants for COVID relief to save our city and our taxpayers $4.4 million in future capital expenditures.

He laid out the efforts that had been undertaken to successfully deliver an additional $3.3 million in outstanding project reimbursements from the state.

Our administrative team also pared down the original budget increase request from more than $2 million to $1.2 million, not asking for any additional programs, curriculum enhancements or professional development, but simply asking to meet the district’s contractual obligations. They even offered to take approximately $1 million in grant money to supplement next year’s budget.

However, despite all of these efforts, the aldermen and our mayor deemed our school district only worthy to receive about 60 percent of its budget request.

In his budget remarks, Board of Alderman Chair John Anglace indicated that the city expected the BOE to make up some of that budget shortfall — in excess of $600,000 — with savings the BOE will get from the non-existent “Teacher’s Retirement Incentive Offer.” Currently, the BOE has not, nor does it intend, to extend that type of offer this year.

It is suspect that during the BOE finance subcommittee meeting, just one week before the budget remarks, Vice Chairman Jim Orazietti twice asked our superintendent and school finance director what the cost savings would be for teacher retirements.

He was told that, with the exception of two recently announced retirements, all retirement savings had already been factored into the BOE budget, and that the two newly announced retirements would only amount to an additional savings of between $70,000 and $80,000. This amount is far below the $600,000 shortfall needed to fully fund the BOE’s contractual obligations.

The BOA apparently made its final determination concerning educational funding on false information that was provided to them outside of any public meetings.

The hard truth for families in this community is they continue to shoulder the effects mill rate reductions have on our schools. For the average homeowner, this year’s reduction will amount to roughly $8.33 a month in tax savings while families are forced to pay hundreds of dollars for each of their children who choose to participate in any extracurricular activity.

Make no mistake, this chronic underfunding is not a function of the city’s ability to pay, but rather the political will to do so. During the Aldermen’s joint budget hearing with the Board of Apportionment & Taxation, Michelle Laubin made two separate proposals to fully fund the Board of Education budget while maintaining the proposed tax decrease by using the general fund surplus. This fund will receive $3.3 million next year from the above-mentioned construction reimbursements. Both motions were denied across party lines.

Our superintendent and his team have worked hard to save the city money by voluntarily reorganizing the central office, recouping long awaited construction reimbursement, reducing the budget needs for the upcoming year and using grant funding to save the city more than $4 million in future capital expenditures. Yet for all of this, we have been denied the simple request to fund our ongoing contractual obligations.

The Board of Education has repeatedly offered to meet with the Aldermen on a quarterly basis to improve communication and understanding between the two groups. President Anglace told us that would not be necessary, and stated during our joint budget meeting that discussions were going on “behind the scenes.”

We truly hope he reconsiders as we do not believe this back-door communication has been productive or effective. There is still a clear misunderstanding of what is needed to provide a high quality, competitive education to our students. There are many options for families in town and it is our goal to make the Shelton Public School System the competitive education option of choice for our students, our parents and our staff.

Mandy Kilmartin, Kate Kutash, Diana Meyer and Patti Moonan

Board of Education Democrat members