Editor’s note: The following article has been updated since it appeared in the print edition.
February is not only budget season on the school calendar but it is also the start of the legislative session at the State Capitol. It promises to be another challenging season as a new governor and legislature work to address a $2 billion budget deficit in 2020, followed by a $2.4 billion deficit in 2021. Hopefully, the Legislature will not impose any new unfunded mandates and will at least maintain the state’s budgeted FY19 revenues to municipalities and schools. This will not be easy given the current uncertainty about funding for education cost sharing, special education and teacher retirements.
One thing seems certain—the financial picture for towns and the funding for education is not getting any easier. As they have always done, in preparing the annual budget, Granby’s Board of Finance (BOF), Selectmen (BOS) and Education (BOE) continue to work collaboratively in the best interests of the taxpayers and students. The first major step in the town’s budget process took place at the end of January when the BOS and BOE presented their Plus One Budgets to the BOF. The Plus One Budget projects the district’s 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 BOF will most likely adopt a budget guideline for the BOE & BOS later this month after the new Governor has presented his budget.
The school district’s Plus One Budget developed for next year (FY20) requests a 4.83% increase in the operating budget over FY19. Some significant items in the operating budget that contribute to the 4.83% include funding for special education services; math intervention services at the intermediate school; expansion of the elementary strings program; Chinese into Grade 7; a few extracurricular clubs; new Freshman, Art and Advanced Placement Courses; a Makerspace/STEM Lab at the primary school; and, a new substitute teacher service. Looking ahead a little, the town will soon have to address needed capital upgrades to the high school facility that are likely to be recommendations from the recent NEAS&C accreditation visit. The full details of the Plus One Budget can be accessed on Granby Public Schools’ website. The BOE and administration have been responsive to these difficult economic challenges by closing a school, reducing staff, realizing operating efficiencies, and presenting reasonable budgets. During the past decade, the district operating budgets have been modest (an average increase of less than 1.24%) and the town continues to realize a terrific return on its financial investment in education.
The community continues to be proud of its school system. It is imperative during these turbulent times that we maintain the high-quality educational programming for Granby students; protect the educational investment already made by the community; and, ensure the district remains attractive to prospective families and to opportunities for regionalization.
Here is wishing wisdom and good luck to the new governor, legislature and town officials in addressing their financial challenges this season. I will be discussing some of the budgetary issues facing the district at the next Superintendent’s Forum on Thursday, Feb. 21, at 7 p.m. in the Board of Education Conference Room. The Superintendent’s Budget will be presented to the Board at the March 6 BOE meeting. As always, I encourage everyone to stay involved in the budget process.