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School Board Trims Superintendent's Proposed Budget by $342K [VIDEOS]

A full-day kindergarten program -- which Superintendent Dr. David Title says will save the district $157,000 -- will be rolled out in the 2013-2014 school year as part of the changes to the proposed Fiscal Year 2014 budget.

The Fairfield Board of Education voted to reduce Superintendent Dr. David Title's recommended $156 million budget by $342,417 Tuesday, passing forth a $155.8 million financial plan that carries a 4.6 percent increase-- or $6.9 million -- over the current fiscal year's $148.9 million budget.

The following changes were made to the recommended:

  • A full-day kindergarten program will be implemented next school year for a projected savings of $157,000 since the district would no longer have to make mid-day bus runs to bring short-day kindergarten student home;
  • Computer monitor replacements were delayed for a reduction of $70,760;
  • Custodial fees for organizations that use school buildings will increase by 10 percent for a projected $10,000 in revenue;
  • A $50,000 Food Service employees pension cost was moved to the Food Service program's self-sustaining budget;
  • $21,588 in allocations for the middle schools and $33,069 in allocations to the elementary schools were cut. Allocations are used at the principals' discretion for costs like textbooks and field trips.

The vote -- which passed 7-2 with members Sue Brand and Perry Liu opposing -- came after several hours of deliberation about administration expenses and salaries, educational programs, and the board's role in the annual town-wide budget process.

Some board members and residents felt it is the Board of Education's duty to set the tone for the other town bodies and make cuts to the Superintendent's budget -- some of which could impact educational programs.  

"We need to manage our own house before it's managed for us," Board of Education member Tim Kery said.

Pamela Iacono agreed and moved to remove a day a week of Grade 5 music class, which would have resulted in a $30,000 savings.

"The rationale is that we can pickup classroom and instruction time," Iacono said. "I'll stress again that we have to make reductions somewhere...this town is going to be asked to take serious actions. In little ways, we have to help."

The reduction of the music class did not make it into the approved motion.

Though several others options were discussed by the board -- including not restoring part-time help to keep the high school libraries open after hours and instituting the Pay-to-Play fee for sports -- some members of the public said it's not enough.

"All this discussion and you're talking about 1 percent of the budget," resident Seth Block said. "I really think you need to take a look at the whole budget and come back with 3 percent, 4 percent...and stop using our kids as fodder for your own mistakes."

Resident John Levinson pointed out there has never actually been a cut to the year-to-year school budget for some time and it's "a problem that's festering."

"We have a champagne taste in education, but not a champagne budget," he said, adding that redistricting is likely the most cost-effective answer to the district's challenges with space and resources.

Others felt the Board of Education members must defend the Superintendent's recommended budget and educational programs, and leave the cutting to the Board of Finance and RTM.

Member John Convertito made the motion to that began the conversation about which non-program changes to make.

"We're having a discussion that's extremely premature," he said, referring to talk of cuts to classes like World Language and the music.

"These are draconian cuts that serve no purpose in this discussion."

Resident Trudi Durrell told the board it's the members' job "to defend the budget."

"Either way, parents will have to pay -- whether it's in taxes, for sports, for school lunches, for parking...quality is a choice, and I really hope you will choose quality," Durrell said.

"It is our absolute moral and ethical -- if not legal -- imperative to educate our children," former school board member Helen Dodson said. "Do you really want to be the Board of Education that cut education, who made poor children pay to play sports with their wealthier friends?"

Resident Mary Hogue agreed.

"Be advocates for education, not for finance."

The budget will next go to the Board of Finance for further discussion and possible reductions. The Board of Education will receive the final budget after the RTM vote in May -- should further cuts be made, the board will have to decide how to shape the budget around them.

For more discussion, see the videos attached to this article.

Marlene Marrucco Recchia January 30, 2013 at 12:54 PM
It is about time Fairfield had a full day kindergarten program townwide.
Abe Froman January 30, 2013 at 01:32 PM
I was unable to attend last night's meeting. Was any rationale given as to how adding full day kindergarten would actually save the town money?
Stacey January 30, 2013 at 01:38 PM
Abe Froman -- Full Day Kindergarten saves the money by not having to run all of the extra bus routes just for kindergarteners.
Ffld Citizen January 30, 2013 at 01:58 PM
Going to the full day kindergarten program townwide is the right decision. Now the board of ed (or state) needs to make the next logical step and change kindergarten age cut off date from 12/31 to 9/1. Five days of full kindergarten is a long time for a 4 year old and we would be in line with the majority of the country.
Caitlin Mazzola (Editor) January 30, 2013 at 02:12 PM
Thanks Stacey, that's exactly right. Dr. Title said the district has already been heading in this direction for the educational benefits of full-day kindergarten (and three kindergarten teachers spoke in favor of a full-day schedule last night), but there's an added benefit of no longer having to run buses mid-day to bring kindergarteners home, which saves about $157,000.
Igor January 30, 2013 at 02:17 PM
In other words what the town is offering is a full day free baby sitting service. To start we could review the children's record and remove all the wee ones that are using Grandma's house as a home address so they can go to the Fairfield school system.
Carol Barrios January 30, 2013 at 02:21 PM
Has anyone thought of the fact that roughly 82% of the $6.9 million budget increase is comprised of pension and healthcare costs (that's over $5.6 million)? Why don't we think about cutting the budget here instead of always selecting things that directly impact our children's education?
Andrew Graceffa January 30, 2013 at 02:27 PM
Igor, if you had any knowledge of Fairfield kindergarten, you'd know that its significantly more than a glorified day care.
Stacey January 30, 2013 at 02:42 PM
Absolutely, Carol Barrios! This is so frustrating!
Igor January 30, 2013 at 02:49 PM
Because Carol, the baord of ed is top heavy and they play the blame game, if we don't get what we want the children will suffer. They have done it for years. Andrew don't get me wrong I think the teachers are doing an excellent job. I do wonder how much a young mind can absorb though. Abe how is it saving money? Whether they run the buses 1/2 a day or full day. They are still running the same place.
Amy V January 30, 2013 at 02:56 PM
Many kids go to daycare which is truly a full day for years (like mine) and can totally handle it. A "full" Kindergarten day is not that long. Remember, kids have a LOT more energy than us!! I think this was definitely the right move for saving money.
J January 30, 2013 at 03:52 PM
I do agree that more research needs to be done into the actual addresses of some of these students. It's like stealing money from the taxpayers plus it makes our schools overcrowded. Or, use a lottery system allowing a certain number and charge them a fee to attend our schools.
Ajack January 30, 2013 at 03:55 PM
I guess it's not really 'everything for the kids' ....right? Who is the administrator who uses that phrase all the time? More like everything for the administrators. 82% for the administrators and 18% for the kids. That's a sin.
Chuck E. Arla January 30, 2013 at 03:55 PM
It's time for our annual School Budget Kabuki Theatre Festival. The BOE kicks off the season with an impessive cut of LESS THAN 1/4 OF ONE PER CENT. Way to watch those pennies. Literally.
Ajack January 30, 2013 at 04:12 PM
It's about time Fairfield got it's spending under control.Our economy is running flat right now, virtually no meaningful growth. Only reason the stock market is doing well is because Bernamke is printing money like crazy, $84,000,000,000 a month and it's almost all finding it's way into the market through the banks. We are not doing well at all, by no means. This budget and the spending is totally unrealistic. I and many should be looking at moving out of this town ....as soon as we can unless this gets better. We have to stop trying to run a race with a sick horse, change strategies, educationally, and embrace the fact that we can not spend money like this.The bulk of the money goes to support a corporate business model rather than an education model.This is all about maintaining the status quo of over compensated lackeys .. Definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. This is a stupid way to educate considering the innovative ways some people are using to educate their kids in this country. Stodgy and archaic models will not work in the future. Fairfield wake up. This is the continuation of a social engineering of our town which will bankrupt the average Fairfield Citizen and send them packing. Thanks BOE for doing such a great job at cutting the budget. Good job.... Go home tonight and pat yourself on the back ,cause no one else will. Thanks Dr. Title . Good job...you need a pay increase.Vote another for yourself.
Ajack January 30, 2013 at 04:13 PM
Igor, you hit the nail on the head.
Stacey January 30, 2013 at 04:17 PM
Igor --- because they run buses dedicated to bring just kindergarteners home because they get out earlier than the rest of the students. All of these early afternoon bus runs at all of the 11 elementary schools will now be eliminated. The kindergarteners will now ride the same 3:30 buses as the rest of the students do.
lbh January 30, 2013 at 04:34 PM
There are many positions at the Adminstrative level that are redundant or just simply figure-heads. I attended school in Fairfield from elementary to high school and many of the teachers I had when I was there are in administrative positions that have meaningless titles. The Board of Ed creates titles/positions so that teachers with tenure can move up and continue to get benefits. Take a look at the titles and ask yourself what exactly it means. No corporation would run like a Board of Ed and be successful. I don't believe we should cut programs. But there are positions in this town that could be cut and we could hire 2 teachers for the price. They always threaten cutting programs but how about cutting management? They deflect the attention onto the issues that touch us the most, therefore, they always get their increase.
Igor January 30, 2013 at 04:59 PM
Stacey you can't be serious. You think there are bullying issues now? Wait until the older kids get on the same bus as the young ones. It's like throwing chickens to the wolves. It enough for the bus driver now, to handle the kids and drive safely also. Maybe they can hire monitors (oops there goes the savings). Better give this some more thought. The first kindergarden child picked on by an older child is going to raise hell in this town.
Stacey January 30, 2013 at 05:11 PM
Newsflash, Igor --- the kindergarteners are currently, as has always been the case, riding the same buses TO school every morning with grades 1 - 5. Moreover, they currently ride the same afternoon buses home with grades 1 - 5 either 2 or 4 afternoons per week.
Andrew Graceffa January 30, 2013 at 05:11 PM
If I'm not mistaken, they already carry them in the morning. It's not going to be any more of an issue than it is today.
Igor January 30, 2013 at 05:47 PM
Okay then that's something I wasn't aware of. Thanks
Perry January 30, 2013 at 08:01 PM
BIG DEAL..THEY CUT THE BUDGET. WHY BOTHER? IT SHOULD BE SLICED AND DICED TO WHAT IT WAS LAST YEAR. I guess they are passing the buck to the First Selectman and the Board of Finance to do any real cutting as we know the RTM Republicans will talk a big game and then do nothing but tax and spend us right out of our homes.
Alrick H Man IV January 30, 2013 at 09:02 PM
we cannot afford this
something to think about January 30, 2013 at 10:05 PM
Igor (and others), parents currently have 2 options for kindergarteners: 1) Full Day -- kids go to school 4 full days a week and 1/2 day on Friday. Mon-Thurs they ride the same busses as the 1st-5th graders. On Fridays a special, additional bus drives them home. 2) Extended day -- kids go to school 2 full days and 3 half days. Half of the extended day kids go full days on Mon and Wed, the other half go on Tues and Thurs. On the full days they ride the bus home with 1st - 5th grades, and the other 3 days they ride a special, additional bus home (the same one on Fridays that the "Full Day" kids take home). All 11 elementary schools have both Full Day and Extended Day students, so all schools have these additional busses. By moving to all Full Day kindergarten, they are eliminating the additional busses that take the kids home on the half days. There won't have to be a need for any additional busses after school, since the kindergarteners currently are all riding the same bus to school with the 1st through 5th graders, they will all just ride that same bus home. Re: bullying on the busses. Kindergarteners generally sit at the front of the bus, behind them the 1st graders, etc until you get the 5th graders at the back of the bus.
Abe Froman January 30, 2013 at 10:25 PM
How are there no additional funds needed to pay the kindergarten teachers to now work full days? Also, that savings from the busing will be very short term as the next bus contract will just be increased to make up for the lost dollars.
Igor January 31, 2013 at 11:40 PM
So where does the money come from to pay the teachers for the second part of the day? Believe I do not want to short the children of Fairfield . I just want the board of ed to become more answerable for their actions
Stacey February 02, 2013 at 10:41 PM
Igor, I realize that our current kindergarten program is hard to understand unless you've experienced it. As it stands now, our kindergarten teachers are teaching full-day (with the exception of 2 hrs on Wed. afternoons) to the students. It's just that half the extended day students are there on alternating afternoons.

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