New London - There was little support for the chairman of the Board of Education on Thursday when he raised the option of petitioning the City Council for a budget increase through referendum.
"This is an opportunity, hypothetically, to be on the radar and not just roll over for the fourth year in a row while the city's side continues to get an increase," Chairman William Morse told board members. "I'm looking for some attempt at parity because the other side has gotten, over the past four or five years, their increase while we've been flat funded. I don't think that's fair. I'm looking to do something."
On Monday, the City Council removed $809,000 in state Education Cost Sharing funds that were mistakenly added to the bottom line of the school budget and then approved a $39.8 million school budget for 2012-13.
While the school board cannot petition for an increase as a full board, individual board members, as citizens of New London, could. According to the school board's attorney and an attorney from the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, Morse said board members could petition the council as long as meetings do not take place on school property and no school resources are used in putting together the petition.
"We're not under the best-case scenario. We're going to be stuck with very large K-3 classes which are counter-productive, we still don't have a maintenance plan for Jennings, Nathan Hale and Winthrop and what's funded for maintenance is roughly one-third of what we need," Morse said.
He said before the meeting that he would like a 2 percent increase but wouldn't initiate a petition if there wasn't support by board members.
Board member Margaret Curtin said she didn't see the point in petitioning the council for a referendum because every referendum costs the city $20,000 and the council, for example, could only increase the budget by $500 or $1,000.
"Then where would that get us," she asked.
Signatures from 485 registered voters in the city would force a referendum.
A school petition, if created, would be separate from the Looking Out for Taxpayers petition that is being circulated around the city. The school petition would have to be turned into the city clerk by July 9.