Ansonia’s Board of Education voted Wednesday to request a budget increase of just over $2 million from the city.
After the meeting, school board President William Nimons said the budget, as-is, would probably cut 6 to 8 positions in the school district next year. He said he hopes to avoid layoffs through attrition.
The request is down slightly from the budget endorsed by a school board subcommittee last month, which asked for a 7.7 percent year over year increase.
But the spending plan is still nowhere near the 2.5 to 4 percent increase Mayor David Cassetti said he’d be recommending when he presents his own budget proposal to the city’s tax board next week.
Wednesday’s vote came after about 10 minutes of back-and-forth between Nimons, board members John Izzo and Fran DiGiorgi, and Superintendent Carol Merlone.
Click play on the video above to see the discussion and vote.
Izzo — who walked out of last month’s subcommittee meeting after criticizing the subcommittee’s request as unrealistically high — read a lengthy statement in which he said the budget request was still “much too high.”
He said the board should be doing more to realize cost savings, such as asking its unions to sign onto lower-cost health savings account plans like the unions representing City Hall employees and police officers have over the past year.
Izzo also said the process of putting together the spending plan “could be more transparent and open to review by others.”
To his point, there was no discussion or proposals made by board members Wednesday on adjusting the proposal for a 6.79 percent increase put before them by administrators.
After Izzo read his statement, Nimons responded that lawyers were in talks with the school district’s unions to move them into less costly health insurance plans, but that those efforts probably won’t bear fruit until July.
Nimons noted they’ve scaled back on the dollar amount the subcommittee discussed last month.
He said Izzo’s concerns were taken into account.
“We took some of your recommendations,” Nimons said. “We’re listening, and we’re doing the best we can.”
He then criticized state politicians for not sending enough financial support to the city, in particular to support students in special education, which in Ansonia number more than 500.
DiGiorgi said asking teachers union to for givebacks is difficult when teachers in Ansonia already make less than those in surrounding districts.
“If we have nothing to offer we will have no teachers here,” she said.
Merlone echoed those sentiments, saying good health insurance is one of the only perks teachers in Ansonia have.
She said Izzo was comparing “apples to oranges” comparing public and private employees.
“You don’t see the amounts of money they take out of their pockets and put into the system,” Merlone said.
She said she would ask the unions to have teachers submit “a tab” of personal expenses they spend on classroom materials to be reimbursed.
“It’s about time we start paying them what they need to be paid,” Merlone said.
The board then voted 6-1 to send the budget request to the tax board, with Izzo dissenting.
By The Numbers
The request totals $32,093,707, a 6.79 percent increase over the 2015-2016 school district spending plan.
That is an increase of $2,040,612.
New positions would include a social worker at the high school and half-time art/music teachers for the city’s two elementary schools.
It’s still somewhat early in the budget process.
Cassetti is scheduled to submit his own budget to the city’s Board of Apportionment and Taxation Monday (Feb. 8), after which the tax board will review the plan and make adjustments.
The tax board must pass a budget for 2016-2017 by March 8.
The final say on the budget will lie with the city’s Aldermen, who will have until April 30 to review the tax board’s recommendations and adopt a budget.