BOE acquiesces to 1 percent budget cut; Superintendent disappointed

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By Kim Becker

The Board of Education unanimously voted to cut two new certified teaching positions and the increased computer software assistance to meet the Board of Finance’s demand for a 1 percent decrease in the overall education budget.
Superintendent of Granby Public Schools, Dr. Alan Addley, strenuously objected to the cut throughout the budget process. Addley originally gave BOE a budget with a .5 percent increase. He was told by the board to make the budget flat. The BOF then pushed the budget down to -1 percent in order to maintain a tax increase of 2 percent. Addley went back to the BOE with a budget at -.36 percent, stating that he had promised families that the schools would not be negatively impacted by the closing of Kearns. When pushed for a way to fully meet the BOF requirement, Addley proposed cutting the Literacy Interventionist for the primary school and the Enrichment Coach for the middle school as well as the $5,000 in new funding for the football team.
Several board members questioned Addley about the new positions. Melissa Migliaccio wondered if the primary level needed another interventionist because that level already has more support than the other schools. Addley emphasized that solving reading and writing issues at a young age is more cost effective than waiting. When asked, he recommended that the board keep the Literacy Interventionist and wait on the Enrichment Coach.
Others expressed concern about the enrichment coach position with Lynn Guelzow stating that a full time teacher for advanced learners would be more suitable for that population. Addley reminded the board that its goals include developing and implementing STEAM curriculum and there is growing interest in addressing the needs of high achieving students.
The proposed new football-funding cut drew attention from Mark Fiorentino and Rosemarie Weber. They strongly encouraged the board not to delay additional funding to football or at least to make the cut to the entire athletic budget rather than singling out one sport.
Jenny Emery attempted to get creative in order to keep at least the Literacy Interventionist and perhaps the Enrichment Coach. She discovered that the health fund, which has a reserve level that spans several years. It is given 5 percent of its total every year to increase the reserve, in this case $138,000. She proposed allocating that money for the FY17 operating budget. Emery believed that reallocating the money for one year would preserve the education budget next year while still paying back the town for construction costs and allowing the town to move over the high point of the debt service smoothly. BOE Chairman Ron Walther told the board that the heads of the three boards declined to revisit or revise the health fund contribution at this time.
In the end, Walther proposed, and the board accepted, cutting the Literacy Interventionist and Enrichment Coach positions. The new football funding remains intact; $3,000 was cut from a technology consultant position that was to support the student information system, website, and state reporting.
FY17 budget highlights
• Provide raises of 3.25 percent to teachers and 2.25 percent for administrators. This raise still leaves Granby close to the bottom of our DRG for teacher salaries.
• Eliminate 12.69 full time staff positions by closing Kearns. However, additional part time positions (special education, athletics and school support) leave the District with a drop of 9.69 positions.
• Provide Wells Road Intermediate School with a year round secretary and money for transition planning and ACA reporting requirements.
• Add freshman volleyball to the athletic choices at the high school.
Quality and Diversity budget
This budget is funded through money attached to the Open Choice program. The district uses this money to fund programs that benefit Open Choice students and the population at large, for example, three kindergarten teacher positions. The BOE relies on this money to fund programming that cannot be fit into the operating budget. Rosemarie Weber, concerned about run out, wanted to put at least one of the kindergarten teacher positions into the operating budget for FY17. With a tight budget, the BOE was again unable to shift any of those positions. In FY17, highlights include:
• Fund three kindergarten teacher positions.
• Provide summer programming for district students ranging from robotics to drama and summer school.
• Provide Chromebook carts for the intermediate level (one cart per two classrooms) and 6th grade (one cart per classroom). Students will leave the Chromebooks at school.
• Fund a new Open Choice Liaison to assist families and students at the secondary level.
• Purchase marching band instruments.