Unlike last year when the elected Board of Education threw in the towel in anticipation of a state takeover of schools, the current appointed school board Monday night approved a budget that anticipates a commitment for additional city and state revenues. Mayor Bill Finch will submit his budget proposal to the City Council next week that may well include a tax increase to accommodate school spending. The new budget year starts July 1.
From Linda Conner Lambeck, CT Post:
With a single unanimous vote Monday, the state-appointed city school board approved a five-year school improvement plan for the district, a $226.3 million operating budget request for 2012-13 and finally sealed this year’s budget.
The plan makes sweeping changes to almost every aspect of the district’s operations and calls for a steady infusion of additional money from the state and city.
There remains a $3 million hole in the current year budget that Interim Schools Superintendent Paul Vallas said he is confident the state will eventually close with a grant or loan.
“This a solid plan. An achievable plan, designed to move the district forward,” said Vallas, who came to the district three months ago to help it fix a staggering budget deficit and design a plan to help the worst-performing district in the state improve.
The spending plan calls for a 4.88 percent boost in spending next year. The district’s stagnant $215.8 million operating budget would increase by about $10.4 million, with the state providing $6.8 million and the city $3.6 million. The new state money is contingent on the city spending more.
“Four months ago, we were faced with a budget where the only solution was to cut sports, cut social workers, increase class sizes. It was the only way,” said Board Member Hernan Illingworth. He credited Vallas and his team with instead cutting central office and redirecting funds to the schools.
As for the school improvement document, Illingworth said he agreed with 99.9 percent of the plan. His only reservation is with the Good Schools Foundation proposed by Vallas that would work to raise funds for the district.
“We have to be careful how we do it,” said Illingworth, concerned that the foundation be a resource and not something that supplants school board control.
Board Chairman Robert Trefry said he likes that the plan addresses all children in the district and doesn’t just start with the youngest students.
“It’s comprehensive, not evolutionary,” he said. It also hits on all of the issues the board heard when it went on listening tours with the public.
Vallas’ budget and five-year plan were produced in a climate of urgency. The clock has been ticking on the life expectancy of the state-appointed board, which took over in July after the state seized control of the district following the locally elected board’s decision to disband.
The state Supreme Court on Feb. 28 overturned the takeover, citing a largely technical violation of the law. Under the court’s ruling, members of the old board whose terms had yet to expire will be joined by newly elected panelists, once the court works out the timetable for a special election.
But Monday night’s actions appear to have set the district on a new, long-term course.
Read more here.