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On Feb. 6 the Board of Education (BOE) voted to adopt a $51,613,227 budget for the 2013-14 school year.
The $51.61 bottom line was reduced by $167,000 from the budget proposed by Superintendent of Schools Hamlet Hernandez on Jan. 31. Along the way, the BOE showed it was willing to take a stand against an unfunded state mandate regulating teacher evaluations, by cutting one position created in response to the mandate.
The adopted budget represents a 2.67 percent increase over the current school budget. In the coming weeks, it will go before the Board of Finance, then the Representative Town Meeting, before a final number is approved.
The Feb. 6 BOE workshop yielded reductions of $79,000 (due to an unanticipated retirement and a reduction of $25,000 to the unemployment fund) and $88,000 by eliminating a proposed curriculum coordinator to support the “TVAL” state mandated teachers program.
The position was eliminated after the board voted to support Chairman Frank Carrano’s proposal to cut it away. Carrano made his proposal based on new information just coming down from the state and State Dept. of Education, giving indications that the state may “slow down” rolling out a mandated teacher evaluation process, said Carrano.
Carrano said the latest indications show the state may modify the mandate timeline from a one-year roll out to a two-year roll out. He said if that happens in the next two weeks or so, after the BOE already adopted a budget with two curriculum positions to support the one-year time line, the added costs would be difficult to defend.
If it doesn’t happen, Carrano said the district will then take have to a “position” with the state.
“If (it) doesn’t get official approval, to slow down the roll outs, I think we should take a position with state that we can only do what we have the resources to do (and) we will move ahead with the particular resources we have. I think this is going to be a position towns across the state are going to take,” said Carrano.
Carrano said it would also send a message to the state about unfunded mandates.
“For me, it’s one way of taking a stand against a system that hasn’t changed in 50 years; (they) determine what you have to do, but don’t come up with any resources in order to get the job done,” said Carrano.
Hernandez said Branford is one of the “leaders in the state” with regard to working toward meeting the state mandate. He agreed Carrano’s idea was “prudent.”
Saying it would still allow the district to “…take a small step forward to implement our model,” Hernandez said, “…but it also informs the state there’s a cost to doing business, and that’s a cost they need to be mindful of. To roll it out…to turn it on like a light switch; to turn it on and make it happen, is really unrealistic.”