Montville schools still facing layoffs after committee vote

Montville - The Finance Committee of the Town Council on Tuesday voted to accept an education budget for the next fiscal year that will mean no increase in spending for the town's schools.

The vote upheld the education spending plan proposed by Mayor Ronald K. McDaniel Jr., who in April presented a $55.7 million overall budget that called for no increase in the $36.6 million school budget.

The vote of the committee was 2-1, with Councilors Candy Buebendorf and Rosetta Jones in favor of no increase and Councilor Gary Murphy the dissenting vote. The seven-member Town Council is scheduled to hold a meeting next Tuesday to consider the budget.

Superintendent of Schools Pamela Aubin said if the council upholds the Finance Committee's vote, the school district will be forced to make layoffs. The town sent layoff notices to 18 nontenured teachers and Aubin said some of those teachers would lose their jobs.

"There will be some. I don't see how we can avoid them. It won't be 18 because we've left some flexibility in there," said Aubin, who plans to meet with the Board of Education to identify cuts if the entire council agrees to no increase. "I would have liked to have seen a more nuanced approach to the budget."

The school district had requested $37.6 million, a 2.72 percent increase, which the Board of Education approved in February. Both Aubin and Board of Education Chairman Dave Rowley said that some councilors' minds appeared to be made up as soon as McDaniel countered with his proposal for no increase.

Rowley added that he believes some councilors criticized the board spending $7,164 to send five of its members to a conference in Boston as a way to show their support for the flat budget. Councilors Chuck Longton and Jones last week questioned the need for five of the board's nine members to attend the conference.

"I'll be very dismayed if that's what they used as a criteria to go with the mayor's zero percent increase," Rowley said. "I really don't know what direction the board will give to (the superintendent) to make things work. We see it as bleak."

The Finance Committee on Tuesday also voted on several other budgets and made few or no changes to the public works and police budgets, among others.

The mayor proposed a $6,100 decrease - 0.2 percent less - in the $2.2 million public works budget, which was unanimously accepted. The department has a 20-person crew, a director and an administrative assistant.

The police budget of $1.95 million, which called for a 2 percent increase, was also approved. The spending plan would allow for the purchase of new guns and ammunition for the 23-member department. The committee also approved $141,812 for the Town Clerk's office.

jeff.johnson@theday.com

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