Present: Alvarez (Chairman), Clark, DeSalvo, Dolan, Mazzucco, Yonkers
Also present: First Selectman Pemberton, Selectman Thompson, Finance Director Gniadek, more 22 members of the public, representatives of the Redding Pilot & Hello Redding, and the videographers
Chairman Alvarez called the meeting on April 6, 2015 to order at 7:30 pm in the Redding Town Hall.
Jeff Fligelman, Pocahontas Road: Mr. Fligelman urged the Board of Finance to ratify the Board of Education’s revised budget with a 0.0% increase.
DISCUSSION OF FY 2015-16 BOARD OF EDUCATION BUDGET
Superintendent Josefsberg stated that the Redding Board of Education voted to accept the administrations recommendations for a further reduction in the operating budget of $173,416, bringing the current year budget to 0.0% increase, or $21,396,502.
The reductions included:
- Elimination of Kindergarten Monday short day bus
- Reduction in RES technology position from 8 hours to 7 hours per day
- Reduction in Speech & Language position at JRMS by 0.3 FTE
- Retirement savings (one additional retirement announced)
- Reduction in Health Insurance Expense
- Reduction of 1 reading paraprofessional position at RES
These reductions were discussed. Dr. Josefsberg indicated that all aspects of the budget were revisited, and there would be no additional costs incurred with the elimination of the Monday Kindergarten bus.
Motion: move that the Redding Board of Education adopt an operating budget for the Redding Board of Education of $21,300,000 for FY 2015-16. Mazzucco, Yonkers.
Mr. Mazzucco noted that the MBR requirement for the 2015-16 budget is $21,271,547, and Mrs. Sullivan confirmed that number.
Last year, the Board of Finance concluded that the education budget was too large and unsustainable. The Board of Finance initially voted to come in with a budget $300,000 below the MBR level. The Board of Education requested that the Board of Finance reconsider this decision. Mr. Mazzucco noted the Board of Education and Board of Finance reached a tacit understanding last year that continuing at the MBR level was unsustainable, as per pupil expenditures would eventually exceed $31,000. The boards reached a further understanding that the budget was overfunded by about $200,000, and that the Board of Education would refund approximately that sum to the Town at the end of the fiscal year.
An MBR committee was formed to find ways to legitimately achieve a budget below the normal MBR level and to explore and encourage legislation that would provide relief from the MBR requirement. There is currently movement in the legislature to allow more flexibility to handle the decline in enrollment, but no certainty that new legislation will be passed.
Mr. Mazzucco commented that he was surprised to see the Board of Education present a budget this year that would exceed the MBR level. With legislation pending that could lift some of the restrictions of the current MBR law, he stated that he was comfortable coming in at the MBR level again this year and hoped that the legislature will provide a longer term solution during its current term.
Mr. Mazzucco added that the cost per pupil and the ever increasing cost as the enrollment declines. He noted that, per the Department of Education’s website, Redding is #10 in per pupil spending of the 188 districts in the state. Among other DRG A towns, Redding exceeds the average per pupil spending by $1,795; last year, Redding exceeded the average per pupil spending of the other DRG A towns by only about $900. He added that Redding has a tradition of providing an excellent education and that, in light of what Redding is already spending, a budget at the MBR level this should not compromise that quality.
Dr. Josefsberg responded to the requested reduction stating that it would have a “destabilizing effect” on the Redding schools. Board of Education Chairman Kim Ajavananda addressed the board with some of her comments made at the Dept. of Education hearing on the MBR issue, and the importance of maintaining the quality of education. She noted that the budget includes a large increase in the Special Services budget this year.
Ms. Clark questioned whether the Board of Education planned to return $200,000 to the town as discussed during last year’s budget discussions. Mrs. Sullivan reported that this was the intent. Health insurance claims are trending downward and will result in a savings.
Vote on Motion to approve a budget of $21,300,000:
Approved. 5-1. Voting for: Alvarez, Clark, DeSalvo, Mazzucco, Yonkers. Voting against: Dolan.
Brenda Phelps, Indian Hill Road: Mrs. Phelps suggested a per pupil cost that excludes the special services costs would be a more effective measure. She believes the Town voters would have approved the 0.81% budget.
Chris Parkin, Indian Hill Road: Mr. Parkin commented that he is embarrassed for the town, and the lack of collaboration between the Board of Finance and the Board of Education. He believes the Town voters would approve a budget of 1%, 2% or even 3%.
Caroline Hunter, Chestnut Woods Road: Mrs. Hunter commented that fewer kids will mean higher costs because of fixed costs. She asked the community value the children and their education. She questioned how the cost per pupil was calculated, what costs were included and if it was a valuable comparison.
Keith Rich, Putnam Park: Mr. Rich commented on the high costs of education the children with special needs.
Darrell Bradford, Cross Highway: Mr. Bradford wants the same quality of education and class size for the children next year as the children that went before them.
Jeff Fligelman, Pocahontas Road: Mr. Fligelman commented that no one asked what would be eliminated from the budget as a result of the further reduction.
Paula Darlington, Long Ridge Road: Ms. Darlington commented that Redding has one of the best education systems and questioned why the 0.0% budget was not accepted.
Mr. Mazzucco responded to some to the comments stating that the Board of Finance has an obligation to bring to the voters the most responsible budget.
Motion: move that the Redding Board of Finance meeting be adjourned. Mazzucco, Yonkers. Approved. Unanimous.
The meeting adjourned at 8:37 pm
Submitted by Mary Maday, Recording Secretary