The Southington Board of Education approved the 2019-20 budget with about $1.2 million in cuts from their original proposal. Most of the cuts came from proposed new personnel.
The BOE originally requested $100.2 million, a 4.58 percent increase. The board of finance cut the request and recommended $98.7 million, a 3.0 percent increase, to the town council.
The cuts from the proposal included one STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) coach, 1.25 math specialists, two elementary world language teachers, stipends for a First Lego League Robotics advisors program in the elementary schools, and a stipend for a Math Olympiad program.
The BOE was able to maintain two new special education teacher positions (one for the high school ACHIEVE program and one to be split between the elementary schools) and a school psychologist.
“This is of course not what we wanted, but I do think that we’ve been able to make adjustments to the original proposal and I think what we have before us is reasonable,” said superintendent of schools Tim Connellan. “We didn’t ask for certain mandates like the MERS (municipal employee retirement system) and the teacher retirement balance but they certainly counted.”
Connellan said the administration felt the budget cuts had the “least negative impact we could have arrived at.”
Board members expressed frustration about cuts made to the original proposal.
“There’s this idea that we do a lot of waste with our budget, and I find it frustrating,” said Joe Baczewski (R). “I think the town council has given us a challenge. Through struggle and strife comes worthwhile success. There’s been lots of frustration, but let’s keep plugging on.”
Baczewski said the board gets their hands tied with state mandates and has no chance to get ahead.
“My biggest thing is I’m not happy with not being able to get anything off the ground again,” he said.
The board discussed the elementary school language program being cut from their original proposal.
“I feel very strongly about that item,” said Bob Brown (D). “If we keep eliminating new things every year, it doesn’t take into account that the world is changing and students’ needs are changing.”
Brown suggested two possible sources of income to make up for the loss: instituting a parking fee for students at the high school, and a fee for participation in high school sports and clubs.
Terri Carmody (R) said she did not want to ask parents for additional money, citing increases to school lunch fees and cutting middle school sports.
“All nine of us wanted an elementary school language program, but our administration looked carefully at this budget reallocation, and I think it’s really well done,” she said.
Brown said he would withdraw his proposal as long as the board pledged to continue to push for the program and find other creative ways to fund it. Both he and Patricia Queen (D) challenged the community to speak up to elected officials and ask for programs such as the language program.
The budget passed, 7-2, with Walter Derynoski (D) and Joe Baczewski (R) voting against it.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at SRoy@SouthingtonObserver.com.