By SHERIDAN ROY
The Southington Board of Education unanimously adopted its 2019-2020 operating budget of $100,216,856 at their Jan. 24 meeting. This comes as a 4.58 percent increase from last year’s adopted budget, though board members and school administration point out that the last two fiscal year budgets had funding “below current level of services” due to budget cuts.
“This budget proposal requests funds to maintain and enhance the programs and services currently in existence so that the Southington Public Schools can continue to provide the type and quality of learning experiences that our families and our community members have grown to expect and that are necessary for the overall economic wellbeing of the community,” said Superintendent of Schools Tim Connellan. “After two years of below current level of services funding, this request proposes increases beyond the current level of services.”
The budget the superintendent proposed to BOE members both maintains levels of services as well as implements initiatives that support instruction, according to Connellan.
“It will allow the school district to meet its contractual obligations, while still providing services that are required to meet all federal and state mandates,” he said. “The proposed budget addresses the most significant needs of the district in an incremental fashion, so that a number of programmatic areas can be improved over the course of several years.”
The superintendent’s proposed budget featured about 73 percent for regular education, about 26 percent for special education, and about a half a percentage for major projects and equipment. About 80 percent of the whole budget funds salaries and benefits of employees.
According to officials, SPS has not hired any new personnel in the last three fiscal years. With the newly adopted budget, the schools will be able to hire world language teachers for the elementary schools and the high school, a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) coach, a math specialist, special education teachers at both the elementary and high schools, and a psychologist.
Adding a language program in the elementary schools was a concept championed by board members.
“This is more than just teaching a language to kindergarten kids,” said Bob Brown (D). “It’s about thinking ability, decoding, cultural awareness—I think if we start that sensitivity at a very young age, that awareness makes a big difference.”
Lisa Cammuso (D) added the language program fits into the SPS vision of a graduate, a statement adopted last year defining what skills and capabilities a graduate of SPS should have.
Connellan said the special education services, as well as counseling and psychological services, had been requested to meet a growing need for students requiring specific types of instructional services.
“I completely support this budget because I feel as a member of the BOE, we have an obligation to provide to all students in Southington,” said vice chair Terri Carmody (R). “I really do think this budget does that.”
Though Zaya Oshana (D) could not attend the meeting, he submitted a statement in support of the budget.
“For the last two years, our budget was not level services. It cut programs. Teachers are reduced in what they are able to offer students,” he said. “There’s no fluff in this budget, and in fact, it does not even bring us to where we were in services and staff two years ago, but it’s a start. We owe it to our students and the town.”
Next, the adopted budget will go before the Board of Finance for review. A public meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 13, at 6:30 p.m., in the council chambers of the Town Hall.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at SRoy@SouthingtonObserver.com.