School officials upset over finance board’s call for cuts
NEW CANAAN — Despite protests from members of the Board of Education and the superintendent of schools, the Board of Finance imposed $900,000 worth of cuts to the school district’s $90 million budget.
The cuts bring the proposed increase to the schools’ spending plan down from roughly 3.4 percent, closer to the 2-percent benchmark set for all town departments by the Board of Finance earlier in the budget process.
“We were disheartened by the depth of the Board of Finance’s education budget cuts. These cuts are significant and will impact programming,” said Board of Education Chairman Dionna Carlson.
At its March 8 meeting, the Board of Finance voted 7 to 1 in favor of the cuts. Only Vice Chairman Robert Spangler voted against the cuts and the entire town budget, which was approved by the finance board that night and awaits final approval from the Town Council.
Two days before the cuts were instituted, at a March 6 public hearing and meeting of the Board of Finance, many members of the public spoke in defense of the proposed 2018-19 school budget. School board members, including Carlson, attempted to highlight the importance of the increase, noting that the school budget has grown in proportion with the town budget over the past decade.
The Board of Finance originally spoke of a potential $1.3 million in cuts, which would bring the school budget down to finance’s desired 2 percent year-over-year increase. They opted, however, for less extreme measures and the $900,000 decrease represents a 2.6 percent increase.
When looking at places to cut, Superintendent of Schools Bryan Luizzi said the district could save as much as $500,000 by deferring certain maintenance projects and cutting down projected workers’ compensation and turnover costs, among other things. Despite larger cuts mandated by the Board of Finance, Luizzi has not yet discussed options for a more extensive reduction.
Now, Luizzi and the Board of Education will need to ponder further cuts and cost-saving measues.
“The additional $400,000 must come from programming and staff reallocation,” Carlson said.
Similar to what she expressed at the March 6 meeting, Carlson reiterated that further cuts would come at the detriment of the district.
“We endeavor to provide the best education for New Canaan students with available resources,” Carlson said. “The community should understand, however, that you don’t become number one in the state by underfunding our schools.”
The Town Council can either accept, reject, or further reduce the Board of Education budget. It will hold an April 3 public hearing and will vote April 5, at which point the Board of Education will decide on the cuts needed to match their approved budget.