By Rob Glidden
Uncertainty about state funding has made a tough budget season for the Board of Education even more difficult.
At a past meeting, the school board discussed reports that the Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) funds that Connecticut schools depend on each year could be reduced by about $33,000. In addition to that, state funding that helps the board deal with transportation costs may be reduced by about $65,000.
The current proposed budget from the state’s Appropriations Committee had other cuts that could impact the general government side of the town budget by over $350,000.
While the BOE was concerned about the reports, Chairman Brian Goralski said the state was still a long way from finalizing its budget.
“It’s still a big question mark right now,” Goralski said. “When it comes to the state budget, what we see in the end is usually not what we see in the beginning.”
Suspense about state funding is not a new predicament for the town. Southington’s budget is always finalized by May, while negotiations at the state level can drag on until early autumn. Expected revenue from the state is part of the town’s budget process but the final numbers are still in question even when the Town Council votes to adopt it and the Board of Finance votes to set the mill rate.
“By our charter, the town has to set the budget relatively soon,” said BOE member David Derynoski. “If that’s done and then some revenue dries up, that’s going to be a problem.”
The Board of Finance has already recommended a $1.1 million reduction for the school board’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which imperils the planned introduction of an all-day kindergarten program. The Town Council will make the final decision about whether to restore some amount of the reductions or accept the BOF’s recommendation later this month.
Goralski said the BOE would need to keep two questions in mind if the funds were not restored – “What would happen to the school district without all-day kindergarten?” and “What would need to be cut in order to keep all-day kindergarten?”
The district’s administrators are still evaluating their options.
“Everything is on the table, although we hope there will be some restoration,” said Superintendent Dr. Joseph Erardi.