One of eight teaching positions recently cut by the Board of Education will be restored under a 2017-2018 budget adopted by the Ansonia’s Aldermen last night.
The budget calls for property taxes to remain flat — assuming the state doesn’t reduce funding.
Just three people spoke during a public hearing on the budget in the high school auditorium Tuesday (June 20) attended by about three dozen residents.
The first was Michael Egan, a longtime critic of the school board’s spending priorities, who said school officials aren’t the only ones who ask for too much money from taxpayers.
“It seems to be across the board where various departments or areas keep asking for more and more money, and I think a lot of it is out of greed, not need,” Egan said.
Mathew Hough, the president of the Ansonia Federation of Teachers, later took the microphone and cited a number of the areas from which the school board has cut positions in recent years.
“We just heard ‘needs,’” Hough said. “Our students need reading interventionists. Our students need Spanish. Our students need music. Our students need a multitude of things we don’t have anymore, things that we had last year, two years ago, five years ago.”
“It’s not wants. It’s not desires. Sure, we’d love to have a million other things, but we don’t,” Hough said.
He noted teachers were laid off as a result of cuts the Board of Education made last month.
“Those teachers are not extras, they’re not things that were ‘nice-to-have,’ they’re classroom teachers, they’re things our students need to be a part of everyday life,” he said.
The school board’s president, William Nimons, said after the meeting that the details of which specific position to restore will have to be ironed out.
He noted the one position to be saved is just a fraction of the 16 total positions — eight teaching positions, as well as five classroom aides, a secretary, media clerk, and math interventionist — cut during a May 31 school board meeting.
“The majority of the adjustments have already been made,” Nimons said.
Hough said after the meeting “we’ll have to wait and see how things pan out.”
“Hopefully the state will come through with more money,” Hough said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to replace a much-needed position. One is better than none. We’re trying.”
The $61,422,339 spending plan is nearly identical to the one passed by the Aldermen’s finance committee last week, with some last minute adjustments.
Assistant Comptroller Rich Bshara said during the meeting that the city and school board recently saved $160,000 on putting insurance contracts out to bid.
He said officials decided to ask Aldermen to allow the school board to pay the city $60,000 less than it had agreed to in a February agreement regarding special education funding reimbursements.
The remaining $100,000 was taken out of the budget’s line item for insurance spending for 2017-2018.
As a result, the city was able to take $100,000 less from its fund balance to stabilize the mill rate.
Earlier in the budget process, the city had planned on taking $4,090,000 from its fund balance, which a financial consultant had warned was “dangerous.”
With the adjustments made at Tuesday’s meeting, the figure is now $3,490,000. The consultant, Thomas Thompson, said he was more comfortable with that figure.
The school board’s budget will be $31,860,484, a year-over-year increase of $800,000.
The Aldermen’s vote on that figure was 12-1, with the dozen Republicans on the board opposed by the lone Democratic Alderman at Tuesday’s meeting, the Third Ward’s Joseph Jeanette.
Jeanette said after the meeting the school board’s budget for next year should be higher, even if it meant a small increase in the mill rate.
“I don’t believe in cutting any more teachers than we have to,” he said. “My belief is to bring young families here, you’ve got to have a good education system.”
No Car Tax Bills Yet
The uncertainty over the state budget means Ansonia residents won’t be getting a motor vehicle tax bill along with real estate tax bills in the coming weeks, Bshara said during Tuesday’s meeting.
Instead, the city will see what happens with a state program to cap municipal motor vehicle taxes, the fate of which Bshara said is uncertain because of the state’s budget crisis.
He said many other towns and cities in the state are taking the same approach.