Milford schools

What a $ 1 million budget cut means for New Milford schools


NEW MILFORD – The school board has made cuts to almost all of its various spending categories, slashing its budget by $ 1 million to the number set by city council earlier this month.

Staff positions, supplies, activities, sports, transportation, special education, health insurance, planning and library books were all cut on Tuesday evening, bringing the final budget to nearly 64, $ 5 million, 0.66% more than the current year.

“We’re all trying to do our best with a bad situation,” said Board member Tammy McInerney.

Deliberations lasted about five hours and came after another hour of public commentary. Most of the 23 speakers asked the school board to keep the six secretary and library clerk positions that were included in the cuts proposed by the director general.

“We secretaries are few in number, but we are doing a tremendous job,” Nancy Benvenuti said during the public comment.

Board members could not support the elimination of all positions, since they were from the same bargaining unit, and instead did away with a secretary and a library clerk. Some members said they understood the removal of the secretary position because it was a difficult year and a secretary was retiring.

The three abolished para-educator positions are also vacant.

A practical arts teacher and associated materials were also cut out, along with a district courier, lab assistant, and strategic planning. It also removed blockages for copying services and out-of-district special education placement. The board has taken $ 46,000 for capital items from the operating budget and plans to use the capital reserve fund instead.

Board chair Angela Chastain said she would have liked to expand the home economics program instead of cutting it, but was limited by the amount set by city council.

“Just once I would like to add to this budget, but here we are cutting essential programs for our children,” she said.

The board has also removed all new book purchases from the library, planning to raise books through donations and work with the city library instead. Volunteers will now have to pay their own fingerprinting fee of $ 87.

The largest reduction was $ 376,000 in the health insurance line, as costs were lower than expected.

The most controversial point of the evening came when Democrats unsuccessfully proposed a 20% cut to college and high school sports budgets, for a total of $ 166,000. They argued that they did not see athletics being able to return to normal in the fall, especially with contact sports, due to the coronavirus.

“I think we are beefing up the budget with athletics,” McInerney said.

Other members argued that the conference is planning to return and that athletics is crucial for the well-being of some students. Instead, Thechas’ board of directors approved a reduction of a combined $ 32,000 in sports transportation and $ 25,700 in high school sports allowances.

The board also reduced the combined activity allowance by $ 21,200 at Sarah Noble Middle School, Schaghticoke Middle School and High School, resulting in a 10 percent reduction at each school. Each school principal will decide what this means for the programs offered. Chastain and board member Joseph Failla opposed all benefit cuts.

Board members approved the transfer of $ 58,000 of the expected savings on staff turnover to re-establish the full emotional and social program in one of the schools, which they believe would be particularly necessary for all of this. that students face during the pandemic.

Originally, the board cut the full high school curriculum, leaving a limited college curriculum. The move will now make it possible to offer a full program, which officials say would probably be the most needed at the college.

School board members said there are so many unknowns for the next school year due to the coronavirus, and have created a COVID-19 fund in cooperation with the city council and the finance board that will allow schools to ” use the current and previous school surplus for expenses related to these needs.

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