No school budget proposal yet

Questions, frustration come with second spending plan option

The Stratford Board of Education will have to revisit its proposed 2017-18 budget after disagreement about which of two different spending plans should be sent to the Town Council.

Board members voted unanimously Monday to table talks on the next school budget. The move was prompted by school board members disagreeing with a $109.2-million proposal discussed by the school board’s Republican members. Susan Lance presented a proposal of $109,244,827, about $2.1 million less than the $111,442,960 plan that came from the school board’s finance committee.

The change caught Board of Ed Vice Chairman Len Petruccelli by surprise. While Petruccelli said he was fine with only a 2.3% increase from the current year’s $106.7-million budget, he questioned what cuts were going to be made with $2 million less in the proposal.

“The percentage is OK, but I want to know what the cuts are, that was the thing. Plus we got blindsided, didn’t know anything about it,” Petruccelli said after the meeting. “I want an opportunity and other members want an opportunity to see what the cuts are.”

Petruccelli conceded that he voted against the $111.4-million plan because it offered a 4% increase from this year’s budget. Petruccelli said the Democratic members should get a look at the plan. Trying to pass a budget without the entire Board of Ed viewing it is “a slap in the face,” Petruccelli said during the discussion.

Board Chairman Jim Feehan said the Republican caucus was listening to the public, including seniors, who feel burdened by taxes. The $109.2-million proposal would nix plans to hire 10 new teachers, Feehan said, and does not include the $576,000 in tuition payments due to the city of Bridgeport for Stratford students who attend a pair of magnet schools in the city.

“Last year, the taxpayers gave us a fantastic amount to help move our schools forward and to get them back on track. And I think the Republicans felt we need to be extremely responsible with the budget,” Feehan said, noting that Petruccelli voted against the $111.4-million proposal.

Feehan said the $109.2-million proposal is a response to officials at Town Hall who wanted a “flatline” budget.

“I think this was our attempt and answer to the people who want to see the Board of Ed budget held down,” Feehan said. “This was a no-growth, non-regression budget. It would be the [minimum] amount we would need to keep moving the district forward, but not regressing and non-growing.”

Chris Barnaby, a Republican, said the school board has to give the Town Council “a number it can swallow.” Lance said said everyone on the finance committee agreed that cuts had to be made from Superintendent Janet Robinson’s proposed $111.9-million budget given to the Board of Ed in late January.

Feehan said the Board of Ed’s Democratic members received copies of the Republican plan during a 40-minute recess. Feehan declined to give a copy of the proposal to The Star, saying he wanted the Democrats to look at it before distributing it to the public. Feehan said the Board of Ed was going to vote only on the amount during Monday’s meeting.

Feehan said the school board will have a special meeting to approve a proposed budget. A date has yet to be set.  

About author
Editor for the Stratford Star. Former reporter for the Darien Times.

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