Crafting the FY20 budget

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On March 6, I will present the FY20 Administrative Budget to the Board of Education. The budget is a spending plan that is responsive to the needs of the district, a Board of Finance budget guideline of 4 percent, a huge State budget deficit, and a proposed Governor’s budget that reduces $254K in State educational funding to Granby. 

Over the years, in response to the significant economic challenges, the district has taken steps to reduce its budget by realizing line-item efficiencies and closing a school. The 10-year average increase for district operating budgets is 1.34 percent and the district has returned an average of $195K per year to the town during this same period. Granby’s per-pupil spending continues to be one of the lowest districts within our Demographic Reference Group and lower than other districts across Connecticut. At the same time, student achievement remains high and taxpayers are receiving an excellent return on their educational investment.

Changes in next year’s employee health, salaries and benefits, special education costs, and transportation alone account for a 4.74 percent increase in the FY20 Budget. Developing a 4 percent budget to present to the Board of Education has only been possible through additional line item efficiencies, reduction of staff, limited use of the Quality & Diversity (Q&D) Fund, and, utilization of grant funding, including those from the Granby Education Foundation in support of the strings program.

A 4 percent operating budget and use of the Q&D Fund provides for few improvements and barely allows the district to protect the investment the community has already made to education. The modest improvements include support for new high school Pre-AP, AP and Art courses; middle school Chinese in Grade 7; the expansion of a district strings program to Wells Road; school safety; and, at Kelly Lane, the makeover of a makerspace/STEM lab and the purchase of a limited number of iPad carts.

We know that an excellent school system directly benefits taxpayers by maintaining property values and making Granby a desirable town for families to live and a great place for teachers to work. Granby’s commitment to providing a quality education is reflected in the community’s support for town budgets and capital projects. It is critical during these turbulent financial times that the town continues to protect its educational investment while being fiscally responsive to the taxpayers.

I am pleased to report that it looks likely the town is ready to address necessary improvements to the high school facility highlighted in the recommendations from the recent NEAS&C accreditation visit and to complete scheduled roof renovations for the other school buildings. A May 2019 referendum package for community consideration is currently under review by the Board of Selectmen. The referendum package includes school projects (high school and roofs), a revenue-producing solar project and the replacement of five town bridges. More information for the community is forthcoming regarding these projects.

Remaining a high-quality school system with years of minimal budget increases, increased contractual and health care obligations and escalating special education costs is increasingly more challenging and is only possible with continued community support and innovative leadership from public officials.

Thank you for your support of the school system over the past number of years. This year, in particular, I encourage everyone to stay involved in the budget process and have your voices heard by our local legislators and elected officials. You can also participate 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 6 at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall Meeting Room); Board of Education Budget Workshops (March 13 and March 27 if necessary at 7 p.m. at Central Services); Board of Education Budget presented to the Board of Finance (March 25 at 7 p.m. in the Senior Center Community Room); Board of Finance Public Hearing (April 8 at 7 p.m. in the GMHS Auditorium); and the Annual Town Budget Vote on April 22 from 12 noon–8 p.m. in the Town Hall Meeting Room.