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Maintaining our educational investment while realizing savings
By Alan Addley, Ed. D
Now that the holiday season is over, the school budget season is in full swing. The economic challenges faced by the town and school district over the past several years have been significant. While the economy has shown some recent signs of improving, it is still a slow process. As always, the board of education (BOE) has been committed to the wise stewardship of funds and the realization of a high return on investment from the use of taxpayer funds.
During the past seven years (FY09–FY16), in response to these economic challenges, dropping enrollment and realized efficiencies, the district operating budgets have had an average increase of 1.3 percent. Despite low operating budgets and lower per-pupil spending than 139 out of the 166 towns in Connecticut (most recent FY14 data), Granby continues to realize a terrific return on investment.
As promised, next year’s budget includes honors savings from the new school reconfiguration planned for implementation in the fall of 2016, while, at the same time, maintaining high-quality educational programming and protecting the educational investment already made by the community. It is critical that next year’s budget preserve this balance.
The first major step in the town’s budget process takes place at the end of January when the board of selectmen (BOS) and BOE present Plus One Budgets to the board of finance (BOF). The Plus One Budget projects the operating budget, small capital and large capital needs, over the next five years. It articulates the district’s priorities and frames the issues and dilemmas as the administration and BOE work through the challenges and settle on a final budget in March. The Plus One projections are used by the BOF to establish budget guidelines and long-range financial planning.
The school district’s FY17 Plus One Budget was recently approved by the BOE. It shows a zero-percent increase in the operating budget over FY16. The zero-percent reflects a base budget of 1.77 percent and includes $906K (versus $1,032,704 projected) in savings from the declining enrollment $108K in retirement savings, and funding to support identified needs of STEAM (Science Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math), Special Education, interventions in reading for our primary students, and talented and gifted programming.
The BOE and administration have been responsive to the difficult financial years. We have tightened our belts, reduced staff, realized efficiencies, and still managed to make some best practice programmatic changes while continuing to realize very high levels of student achievement. Examples include integrated pre-school, full-day kindergarten, meeting the needs of our highest performing students, expansion of world languages and one-to-one computing.
As we embark on closing the F.M. Kearns Primary School, it is important that we honor the commitment to savings for the town while providing a high quality school system for our students and community. 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. Preserving and realizing that delicate balance is always the challenge.
I will be discussing some of the budgetary issues at the next Superintendent’s Forum on Thursday, Feb. 18, at 7 p.m. in the board of education conference room. The superintendent’s budget will be presented to the Board at the Mar. 2 BOE Meeting. I encourage everyone to stay involved in the budget process and to vote! The community is understandably proud of its school system—it is imperative that we keep it that way by passing reasonable operating budgets. Thank you for continuing to support our students.
Kearns reading program featured at BOE meeting Several students from the Kearns reading workshop program were selected to read their stories at a recent Board of Education meeting. They were highlighting the success of the program at the school. Shown are from l.: Mrs. Ann Belding, the reading specialist; (in front) Sabrina Kulwich, preschool program; Victoria Kulwich, kindergarten; Tylon Harold, second grade; Sarah Slade, first grade, and Mrs. Kim Dessert, school principal. Photo by Alan Addley