Liscinsky: Engage in the process

Where have all the parents, teachers and vested community members gone?

We have again embarked on the yearly budget process and it is in its final stages. This year, the Board of Education has requested quite a conservative increase to keep up with primarily increased health care costs and contractual salary increases.

There is a small amount of allocated budget dedicated to program improvement and also a reduction in Pay to Participate fees. This request amounts to $64,336,129 or less then 1%. In fact, the last two years our budget request have been quite modest to keep some stability in the district. After our reduction in force two years ago, 100 plus staff members, of which 36 plus were certified teachers, were let go. We are essentially treading water.

Our budget presently is $63,700,000. This year, the mayor in his budget request has arbitrarily reduced us by $500,000 under our present budget to $63,200,000 thereby potentially creating a deficit for our budget of $1,136,129. I must also state that the mayor, in his request, is putting the city in danger of violating the 'Minimum Budget' requirement Law. Alarmingly, the Board of Apportionment and Taxation supported the mayor's appropriation, thereby in my opinion abdicating their oversight responsibility. The budget is now in the Board of Aldermen's hands.

We are in a race to the bottom in funding education in our community, as evident in the recent budget book presented to the Aldermen and A&T. In the last 5 years the BOE budget has grown in Shelton by 3.9% or less then 1% a year. The city budget has grown by 19.1% or an average of 4% a year. As enrollment has decreased over the last 5 years, so has the staff. We've reduced more than 65 positions, 43 of them certified staff.

In 2006-07 our Net Current pupil expenditure was $10,391, while the state average was 11,862. We were 133 out of 169 towns and our wealth ranking was 50 /169 towns. In 2009/10 our NCE was 11,670 or 147 /169, the state average was $13,584 and our wealth rank was 51/169.

The superintendent has tried very hard to work with the Mayor and Aldermen. He has listened to their concerns, made some very difficult decisions with a majority of the board support, and certainly has kept the general health of the community in mind when making those decisions.

The superintendent, his staff, and the Board continue to look for cost savings wherever we can and over the last several years have been very proactive in looking at health care costs, with higher co-share cost and plan changes; energy savings, which the city has been a part of; and addressing spiraling special education cost. We have also had numerous conversations with our state legislators about unfunded mandates which have a big impact on our budget.

There is certainly a lot of conversation about Public Education in the news presently, with SB24, but we must keep our students in mind today more than ever in order to provide for and support an engaged community. Whether you have a child in the school system or not, we have all chosen to live in a community which we all have a responsibility to invest in. We also all have a vested interest in property values and quality school systems which are impacted. We're all familiar with "doing more with less" these days, however, we should not sacrifice the future-the children in this community.

Thursday, April 26 is the budget public hearing at City Hall, now is the time to engage in the process. I ask for your help in supporting the children in this community and their future.

Arlene Liscinsky, Board of Education