By Lisa Capobianco
The finance board recently voted 5 to 1 in support of the Board of Education’s proposed budget as presented for Fiscal Year 2014-2015. The school board proposed a budget of $87,072,005, which reflects an increase of 3.37 percent over this year’s adopted budget of $84,233,204.
“It’s just an incredible moment for Southington to have this budget passed as presented,” said school board member Jill Notar-Francesco, during a recent Board of Education meeting, adding that the finance board has spent a considerable amount of time and energy into working through the budget diligently and asking questions.
“We see the community is what we always want it to be—a team for one, which is to make our schools great to move in the right direction,” added Board of Education Chairman Brian Goralski at the meeting. “I look forward to that communication continuing to grow.”
Board of Finance Chairman John Leary said members of boards have conducted ongoing discussions since the approval of the current year’s budget, enhancing communication and collaboration during the process.
“We’ve been working with the Board of Education for an entire year,” said Leary. “We’d rather have transparency and honesty.”
After having all of their questions answered and meeting with the teachers’ union to gain a classroom perspective, the finance board found the budget to be responsible, but also added a stipulation that next year’s budget not exceed an increase of 2 percent.
“The Board of Finance looked ahead across two years in making its decision,” Leary said. “In the end the five member voting majority found the budget to be responsible, fair and it was approved.”
Besides addressing phase II of the technology plan, the school board budget requested for the restoration of lost staff and programming, including a library media specialist for the middle schools as well as new staff for teaching, learning and safety. Leary said that with the large number of requested staff, the finance board decided to move forward this year with the school board’s requested funding, but agreed that next year’s budget increase be capped at 2 percent.
“They asked for a lot of position expansions in the current year,” said Leary, adding that finance board’s goals is to ensure the budget is reasonable and responsible for the town as a whole. “We had to lay out an expectation that the positions wouldn’t expand further.”
The Town Council will ultimately vote on the Board of Education and General Government budget no later than May 12. A public hearing will take place on Monday, April 28, 7 p.m. at Derynoski School.