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On March 4, I will present the FY16 Administrative Budget to the Board of Education. The budget is a spending plan that is responsive to the slow recovering economy, the priorities established by the community, board-approved goals, the mission of the school district, and, the budget guidelines established by the Board of Finance. Next year’s budget is presented at a time of increasing special education costs; uncertainty about how the state plans to meet its budget deficit and funding to municipalities and school districts; and, the ongoing demands of Connecticut’s educational reforms (Common Core State Standards, Teacher and Administrator Evaluation Plans and Secondary School Reform). When this article went to print, the proposed FY16 Administrative Budget reflects an increase of 2.4 percent over the FY15 budget.
During the past six years (FY09 – FY15), in response to the economic challenges, dropping enrollment and realized efficiencies, the district operating budgets have had an average increase of 1.1 percent. During this same period of time, the district has successfully implemented over $800 in operational efficiencies and has returned an average of $232K per year to the town’s general fund.
Granby’s per-pupil spending during these six years continues to be one of the lowest districts in our Demographic Reference Group and lower than other districts across Connecticut; yet, student achievement has remained extremely high. For example, the 2015 CMT and CAPT Performance Indices in Science show that no other district in the state spent less on education and realized higher results. By any comparison, Granby continues to receive a high return on its educational investment.
Over the years, the district has creatively made program improvements with low operating budget increases. It is critical that our school programs remain attractive both for students that reside in Granby and for those that join us from other towns such as Hartland and Hartford. An excellent school system directly benefits taxpayers by maintaining property values and making Granby a desirable town for families and a desirable place for teachers to work. It is imperative that we continue to protect the town’s investment in the school district.
Next year, reduced staff due to declining district enrollment, increased shared staffing between schools, Open Choice funds, and a modest 2.4 percent budget increase provides budgetary and operational challenges as well as an opportunity to incrementally advance some strategic initiatives with minimal impact to taxpayers. In particular, the FY16 budget supports Spanish in the primary school (grades K–1), the Arts and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) in the secondary school; services to our highest performing students (grade 4), College and Career Readiness at the high school, pre-school programming for students with special needs, and the one-to-one computing initiative at the high school (grades 11–12), all with nominal impact to taxpayers.
Our commitment and approach in this recovering economy remains unchanged; a laser focus on student learning and the delivery of the highest quality education possible. However, emerging as an even stronger and better school system with years of essentially flat budgets and increasing special education costs is increasingly more challenging and, perhaps, even improbable. Thank you for your support of the school system thus far. I encourage everyone to stay involved in the budget process by visiting the district website, following us on social media and by attending any of the upcoming budget meetings: Presentation of the Administrative Budget (March 4, 7 p.m., Central Services); Board of Education Budget Workshops (March 11 and 18, 7 p.m., Central Services); Board of Education Budget presented to the Board of Finance (March 30, 7 p.m., Senior Center Community Room); Board of Finance Public Hearing (April 13, 7 p.m., GMHS Auditorium); and, the Annual Town Budget Vote (April 27, 12 – 8 p.m., Town Hall Meeting Room).