BRISTOL - Facing budget constraints, the Board of Education has voted to eliminate five elementary teachers and eight high school teachers, along with a number of other cuts, to trim $1.6 million from the 2017-18 school budget.
The board held a special meeting recently to decide on the cuts, in advance of a joint City Council and Board of Finance meeting on Wednesday, May 31, for a final decision on the school budget.
Originally, the board had asked the city for a 7.04 percent increase for schools next year but the increase was limited to 3 percent.
Chris Wilson, school board chairman, said these were difficult decisions, and he took as a “guiding principle that we wanted to have the least impact on students and programming as we could.”
Deputy Superintendent Susan Moreau said the elementary teachers could be eliminated through attrition, as some have already indicated they plan on retiring or leaving. As for the high school teachers, four positions would be eliminated at each high school, and it would be up to the principals to determine what they would be, based on enrollments and scheduling.
City Council member David Mills, who is liaison to the school board, said he would rather see the district postpone purchases of textbooks and Chromebook laptops to save money.
“Is there any way that testing could possibly be done in two waves so we don’t need all the Chromebooks,” he said. “Personally I would rather save personnel because I believe education is with people rather than textbooks.”
Pam Brisson said the district has already cut back on textbook purchases in recent years but is now ready to implement the rigorous new National Science Standards and new textbooks will be needed, as some of the current science textbooks in use are 10 years old or more.
Superintendent Ellen Solek pointed out that testing at the high school level is all done online now. “With the volume of students who need to be tested within a certain timeframe we actually don’t have enough Chromebooks now to do what you are suggesting,” she said.
Vibert said she agreed with the idea of preserving personnel whenever possible, “but the overwhelming majority of our budget is salaries.”
Other areas have to be looked at, “but there is no way we can balance this budget without unfortunately looking at staff, it just won’t work,” she said.
The board members discussed other possible areas for cost savings, such as getting rid of gifted coaches and freshmen athletics.
Member Jeff Caggiano came up with a list of potential savings, ranging from using electronic versions instead of conventional textbooks to going to a 180-day school year instead of a 181-day one.
In the end, the cuts totaled $500,000 for the elementary teachers, $550,000 for the high school teachers, $137,000 for two high school secretaries, $50,000 for one 10-month secretary, $24,000 on reducing a full-time secretary to 10 months, and $83,000 for a high school head custodian.
Other savings included $50,000 on textbooks, $50,000 on professional memberships, $50,000 on technology purchases, $50,000 on office supplies, $10,000 for staff transportation, $20,000 for field trips, $10,000 for field trip admissions, $5,000 for special education textbooks, and $6,000 for co-curricular stipends.
Instead of saving $70,000 by cutting freshmen athletic teams, the board settled on cutting $40,000 in athletic equipment and supplies.
The final vote was 5-2, with Caggiano and fellow board member Jennifer Dube voting against the cuts.
Vibert’s motion to keep the 10-month secretary and the full-year secretary failed 4-3, with board member Karen Hintz saying if they needed to cut those positions later they might not have the proper amount of time needed to give notice to those people.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or email@example.com.