SOUTHINGTON - The Southington Board of Education has released an open letter encouraging residents to join the conversation during the budget approval process and to attend upcoming public hearings.
“We, the Board of Education, strongly encourage the entire community to participate actively in the 2018-2019 budget approval process,” the letter stated. “We strongly feel that the future of public education in Southington should be the subject of a community discussion.”
“By encouraging people to attend these meetings, we want the public to tell us what they want,” Brian Goralski, chairman of the school board said Thursday. “I have not heard anybody support the proposed reductions. Our superintendent attends numerous meetings with parents. All of them want the schools to stay where they are and continue to get better. This is our way of reaching out to those residents who aren’t parents.”
Public hearings will be held at the Board of Finance meeting March 13 at 7 p.m. at DePaolo Middle School, located at 385 Pleasant St. and the Town Council meeting April 23 at the Municipal Center at 200 N. Main St. The Board also wished to remind residents that they can speak during the public communications portion of any board or council meeting.
The Board also provided some facts about the previous, 2017-2018 budget.
“For the current fiscal year, 2017-2018, the BOE budget was not adequately funded to provide the same level of services as the previous year,” the letter read.
As a result, the following were eliminated from the Board of Education budget:
n 8 teaching positions
n 6 paraeducator positions
n Elementary world language pilot program (a program the Board said that it wanted to expand)
n Middle school sports (Subsequently saved by the Southington Middle School Sports and Athletic Association)
n All new textbooks
“After the budget was finalized, we were asked to cut an additional $1.6 million because the State reduced funding to Southington partway into the current year,” said the letter. “Resolution is still to come.”
As for the 2018-2019 budget, Superintendent of Schools Tim Connellan proposed a 3.27 percent budget increase which totaled $97.3 million. This budget included no new staff or services. The Board of Education reduced that budget to a 2.77 percent increase for a total of $96.8 million.
“The cost of education is personnel driven,” the letter explained. “Some contracts were due for negotiations this year and resulted in a zero percent increase for salaries in the 2018-2019 budget. Nonunion staff, including our superintendent and other central office administrators, will also have a 0 percent increase in their salaries for next year.
“The fiscal state of Southington is strong, but the fiscal state of Connecticut is weak,” the letter continued. “The increase in Southington’s grand list at the current mil rate will not be enough to offset reduced state funding and the expected increase of BOE expenses. Any further reductions in the BOE budget for next year will result in the reduction of staff and loss of programming.”
The letter said that the Board is proud of what Southington Public School employees and students have achieved despite having a lean budget, which the letter said is one of the lowest in the state.
“Southington’s per pupil expenditures ranks at 154 out of the 166 school districts in Connecticut,” said the letter. “The ratio of students to administrators in Southington is 186 students per administrator, 36 students above the state average. The recent enrollment study concluded that elementary enrollment is rising over the next ten years, due to home sales, both new and existing.
“We believe that the strength of our schools contributes to the strength and prosperity of our town,” the letter concluded. “The question now is how much value does Southington place on public education for our children and our town and what are we willing to pay for it?
“A good school system leads to business growth and residential growth,” Goralski said.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or email@example.com.