By Lisa Capobianco
Members of the community addressed the proposed 2014-2015 budgets of the Board of Education and the General Government/Town Manager during a public hearing Monday night.
The school board’s proposed budget is a total of $87,072,005 for 2014-2015, which reflects an increase of 3.37 percent over this year’s adopted budget. The school board currently has an adopted budget of $84,233,204.
Under the proposed budget, professional development increased $11,500 to meet the needs of the new evaluation system and the new state assessment program. The proposed budget also calls for the restoration of lost staff and programming, requesting a return of a library media specialist for both middle schools at an expense of $54,150, as well as a literacy specialist (for DePaolo Middle School) and a math specialist (for Kennedy Middle School) at an expense of $54,150.
For Margaret Tichy, a computer teacher at DePaolo Middle School, keeping the Board of Education budget as proposed means an opportunity to restore the lost of the library media specialist—a position she once held at both middle schools. During the public hearing, Tichy requested the Board of Finance to approve the school board’s budget as presented.
“Last year I was a library media specialist at both middle schools,” said Tichy, adding that the library media specialists serve as key experts in research, which will benefit faculty members and students, especially in the area of standardized testing. “Two beautiful state-of-the-art library media centers are near in completion at Kennedy and DePaolo Middle Schools—they need a final ingredient to make them truly state-of-the-art—a library media specialist.”
Bob Brown, a teacher at Southington High School for 40 years, also spoke in favor of the school board’s budget as proposed without significant cuts. Brown supported the proposed new support staff, including three additional teaching positions to serve as Teacher Leaders at a cost of $140,250.
Brown said these new positions are needed resources for state mandates, including the Teacher Evaluation Plan and the Common Core State Standards initiative.
“We need these positions such as the teacher leaders to fill those mandates,” Brown said. “Time has become a crucial issue—not just for teachers but also for administrators—these positions give them more time to evaluate teachers properly and to help incorporate new curriculum reforms like the Common Core that will directly impact student learning.”
Meanwhile, the proposed General Government/Town Manager 2014-2015 budget is $51,536,722, which represents an increase of 4.85 percent over the current budget. The adopted budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013-2014 is $45,081,001.
Al Monbaron, a business owner and member of the Southington Chamber of Commerce, addressed the need for the maintenance of the downtown renaissance, supporting the downtown renaissance funds in the proposed budget. The budget proposal for 2014-2015 calls for the downtown rehabilitation into eight sections. Rehabilitation includes painting street furniture, lampposts and stem-cleaning pavers, replacing lights and refitting broken granite curbs. Initially, $25,000 will be budgeted per year for this project, according to the proposal.
Monbaron, who also serves as Chairman of the Central Business Alliance (CBA) Committee, said downtown serves as a vital part of the community that attracts not only Southington residents but also residents from other surrounding areas.
“A number of years ago when the town decided to do the downtown Renaissance work, it was a great vision—I think it’s been a huge benefit to the town—property values have increased down there,” said Monbaron, adding that park benches, street lamps and garbage cans need repainting. “When something is built, it eventually needs to be maintained.”
Art Secondo, the President and CEO of Southington Chamber of Commerce, agreed with Monbaron, calling the maintenance of downtown Renaissance an investment for the future. Every year Chamber officials, along with town officials and business owners, conduct a walkthrough in downtown Plantsville and Southington to look at what needs to be maintained.
“We need downtown—we want the downtown to look good for all our residents and for our prospective business owners,” said Secondo, adding that the Chamber feels concerned about various issues downtown, including public safety and lights. “If we don’t start taking care of downtown, it’s going to disappear.”