It never ceases to amaze me how the Board of Apportionment and Taxation can approve such drastic educational budget cuts to Ansonia’s children.
My fellow Board members and I have worked so hard on presenting a transparent budget that is beyond fair and reasonable in today’s Educational realm in order to meet the needs of all of our students.
We have worked tirelessly with our team which includes the Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, Business Manager, and all other educational stakeholders to draft a budget that is fair in all aspects.
Our team has also worked closely in joint sessions with the Board of Alderman as well as with the Mayor and his staff in an effort to be transparent. Mr. Bshara stated several times that he felt that the exchange of information from the Board of Education and the City has been commendable and has made the process transparent and easier in his opinion.
As a result of these meetings, a resolution was drafted where in summary, the Board of Education would receive back from the City their entitled Excess Cost (as mandated by State Statute) to include in their budget and they would encumber some expenses from the city that have been used for school facilities (i.e. Liability Insurance, the new Portables Project).
In my opinion, the Board of Apportionment and Taxation showed no regard for this collaborative effort or resolution and took it upon themselves to once again cut the Education budget. They went as far in no uncertain terms as to attempt to pit the Library closing against the Board of Education budget. The two are distinct and separate entities and should be treated as such. The Board of Education has never attempted to pit City entities against one another and it is inappropriate and unethical for any other City official to do so.
Our team has been working on what these cuts will do to us and I will mention them later in this article. However, please allow me to clear up several misconceptions. The first is the fact that only 40 percent of the Board of Education’s budget comes from local funding as opposed to the other 60 percent which comes from state and federal grants. Another common misconception is that the Board of Education is always the highest in terms of percent increase each year. This is simply not true!
As we have shared this year, our presented increase is only 2.6 percent which is directly in line with all other departments in the City (i.e. Police, Arms, Public Works.). The truth and reality behind the Excess Cost reimbursement is that the City has kept that money and declared it as revenue for the past four years and in effect have only given $234,933 to the Board of Education. Here is the entire four year breakdown:
So while the resolution will indeed help this year and moving forward, additional cuts are detrimental and frankly unwarranted. The last misconception is with regards to the Alliance Grant which we have written and have received for the last four years. The basic understanding with this grant is that the initiatives set forth under this grant funding be continued and the funding be granted from the local budget. Therefore, cuts from our budget will not allow for this to happen.
Furthermore, in terms of cuts which my team feels are detrimental to all of our students would include the following:
- All day Kindergarten would be cut back to half day Kindergarten. This is a direct result of us losing the Alliance Grant next year and since we are not granted the 2.6 percent increase, this would happen in order to save costs. However, interesting to note here that there was an agreement between the BOE and the City which stated that the City would pay for all day K once the Alliance Grant went away. Mr. King, the President of the Board of Apportionment and Taxation, even acknowledged that this agreement was in place when the BOE presented their budget to them. Yet he and his Board voted to cut education, thus inherently voting to cut all day K.
- The staffing for the new Portables project at Mead. These portables would allow the district to incur a cost savings by having some of our outplaced students return into district. However, without the 2.6 percent increase, this cannot happen and as a direct result the Board of Education will continue to encumber these high costs for out of district placements.
- All sports. While no one on our team wants to see sports eliminated, there is simply no other option. In order to keep classroom sizes manageable and not to lay off more teachers or administrators as we have in the past, there is simply no other way. We are currently almost at maximum student to teacher ratio in each of our classes and we are one of the highest per pupil to Administrator in the state, 200 students per Administrator as compared to similar size school districts. For example Derby is at 145 students per Administrator and Seymour is at 152 students per Administrator.
In closing, I would like to say that the Board and I are hopeful that the Governor’s budget does give more money to Ansonia for Education, however, until that happens we have to plan accordingly. As you have read, we have done everything in our power to present a fair, transparent, and equitable budget for the largest employing entity of the City of Ansonia(360 employees) however the Board of Apportionment does not seem to see it that way. It is our hope that once presented to the Board of Alderman that this budget will change and that we will be allocated the necessary funds for all children in Ansonia.