Montville — Superintendent of Schools Pamela Aubin said Tuesday that not increasing next year's school budget would result in teacher layoffs and would harm programming in schools across the town.
On Monday, Mayor Ronald K. McDaniel Jr. presented his $55.7 million proposed budget to the Town Council. The spending plan includes an overall increase of 0.2 percent, with no increase in the current $36.6 million school budget.
The Board of Education in February unanimously approved a $37.6 million budget for the next fiscal year, a 2.72 percent increase.
"While I can appreciate the mayor's dilemma in regards to revenue issues, I don't think the parents of this community want to see such a severe limitation on expenditures," Aubin said. "That (increase) supports programs that we have for our students. (Parents) want to see improvements and continued improvements over time. They realize there are some costs associated with that."
Aubin said that layoff notices already have gone out to 18 teachers who don't have tenure. If the Board of Education's proposed budget were adopted, the teachers would not lose their jobs. The spending plan also reflects three positions that will go unfilled after teacher retirements.
The superintendent said she will continue to advocate for the 2.72 percent increase at a public hearing Monday night at 7 at Town Hall. Aubin pointed to the loss of the $610,000 in one-time federal stimulus money that the school district received under the Education Job Act as a significant obstacle when crafting the budget.
To make up for that one loss, Aubin said, would require an increase of roughly 1 percent in the school district budget. She said the 1 percent bump is historically what the Town Council has allowed the schools.
McDaniel said his budget was crafted with the idea of holding every department to as flat an increase as possible. Because of a significant loss of revenue, the town's tax rate jumped 6.3 mills — to 29.3 overall. It would mean about $400 more in taxes for a property assessed at $200,000.
The mayor said he understands the importance of education, but he also said one problem with school spending is that the state recently has underfunded education costs. He said that has placed an unfair burden on towns.
Aubin said that a flat budget could affect the Board of Education's decision to implement full-day kindergarten in the town's three elementary schools. A proposal accepted by the Board of Education said the full-day program could be put in place without adding additional staff if no layoffs were needed.
Aubin said the board, if necessary, will determine where the layoffs will come from after it learns what amount the council approves.
"There could be teachers, administrators, para-educators, secretaries, custodians, maintenance workers," Aubin said. "That's yet to be determined."
The school budget includes a $735,369 increase for certified staff, as negotiated in the teachers' contract last February.