By SHERIDAN CYR
Members of the Board of Education addressed the Town Council at the council’s FY 2018-2019 budget public hearing with concerns that untrue accusations were made about the BOE and their budget request at the council’s previous meeting.
Last week, councilor Mike Riccio (R) discussed a vote that sat before the council for a $1 million premium holiday for the BOE and the Town from the self-insurance fund, a vote that was requested in the BOE’s deficit mitigation plan. Riccio was critical about the BOE’s budget request.
“My struggle is if we are to vote ‘no’ against this, we are saying we don’t really want to support education, and that’s not true,” said Riccio. “At some point we need to figure out how to fundamentally change the way we deliver education in Southington without attacking our kids and our teachers. How do we get them to understand that the pot of gold isn’t going to be there next year?”
Other councilors including Victoria Triano (R), Kelly Morrissey (D), Dawn Miceli (D) and John Barry (D) voiced similar concerns with the BOE budget process during the April 16 council meeting.
At Monday’s public hearing, BOE members Robert Brown (D), Patricia Queen (R), Terri Carmody (R) Lisa Cammuso (D) and chair Brian Goralski (R) offered their side of the budget debate.
“This year, when we took upon our budget, we asked the superintendent for scenarios of what further reductions would look like,” said Goralski. “Some of you have said we made threats and are using scare tactics. If you recall last year, we were concerned about mid-year reductions, and we all saw those fears come true. We started this year in a hole.”
Goralski said he stands by the budget the BOE originally requested from the Board of Finance. He asked the council to consider restoring some of the funds that the BOF reduced during their budget approval process.
Brown told councilors that their anger and insults should be directed at the state government, not the local BOE. “I watched the video of the Town Council’s last meeting with disappointment—and frankly embarrassment—of the misinformation stated publicly by many Town Council members and the insulting tone directed at the BOE.”
Brown said the BOE eliminated 14 positions, froze textbook and supply purchases, froze hiring of new personnel, and will delay capital improvement projects.
Carmody pointed out councilors did not submit budgetary questions to the BOE, and she said the facts stated were not true. Queen told councilors, “The answer is not to turn on each other. We need to work together.”
The Town Council will vote on the budget on May 14. The BOF will set the mill rate on May 16.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.
Current Town Budget proposals for FY 2018-2019
For the General Government proposed budget click here:
For the Board of Education budget, including the Superintendent’s proposed budget and the BOE’s proposed budget, click here: SouthingtonSchoolsbudget
For the Board of Finance proposed budget, click here:
Observer coverage for this year’s budget talks