Budget season is never fun for anyone involved, especially not this year for Monroe.
In the wake of Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s brutal $7.2 million proposed cuts for the town, Monroe has been scrambling to trim First Selectman Steve Vavrek’s proposed $86.4 million budget.
So far in these efforts, the Town Council requested all town department heads and the school district to outline what a 0% increase, a 5% decreased and a 10% decreased budget would be and how it would impact their departments. Since then the Town Council approved a budget that trimmed $2.89 million from the town side of the budget. The budget is currently with the Board of Finance, where they are also looking to find savings in the budget.
Cuts were made to all of the town departments and saw tough reductions for Social Services, first responders, Chalk Hill and Human Resources.
As for the Board of Education’s budget at $56,007,812 it is 2.5% more than the previous year. According to Superintendent Jim Agostine to reduce the budget to a 0% increase the Board of Education would have to cut $1 million in spending. At last week’s budget workshop meeting Agostine outlined what it takes to get to 0% and it involved cutting more than a few beloved items. To get to 0% Agostine said the district would potentially have to cut:
- two nurses
- three kindergarten to grade 5 coordinators
- bond $31,000 in equipment replacement or other “creative” funding method
- cut $25,000 from professional development
- cut $100,000 from the tech budget
- cut $30,000 from curriculum writing
- cut $5,000 from teacher stipends
- lose central office administrative position to save $130,000
- not fill a music teacher position and lose 5th grade band and orchestra
- cut freshman sports to save $20,000
- reduce $20,000 in clubs and activities funding
- cut one Masuk teacher
- cut three technology paraprofessionals
- cut $10,000 from the repairs budget
- cut one bus
- end work with Columbia’s Teachers College
He said to reach the -5% budget they would have to cut an additional $2.7 million and for the -10% budget they would have to cut $5.5 million in spending.
Agostine said both of those budgets would cause a considerable amount of damage to the district. He said that with the -5% budget “gets ugly” and the district would lose nearly 30 teachers. It would also cut all middle school and high school sports as well as losing the athletic director and the assistant athletic director. Agostine also said kindergarten could potentially be cut from full day to a half day program.
He said to get to -10%, the district would have to eliminate an additional 30 to 35 teachers, which would reduce the teaching staff by one-third. He also said that the district would have to cut the STEM program and class sizes would increase to 35 to 40 students per class.
Residents present at the meeting were less than pleased about making such drastic cuts to the schools. They begged town officials not to decimate the schools and to find another way.
While Board of Finance chairman Mike Manjos said they won’t be seeking “the nuclear option” with the schools it does beg the question of where will the town find the funds to fill the $7.2 million hole?