New London schools warn of 10% cuts without more cash

New London - If the City Council votes to not increase the school board's proposed 2012-13 budget as it has for the past four years, it would require a nearly 10 percent reduction in staffing, programs and services throughout the school district, according to the superintendent of schools.

Another flat-funded budget would also mean larger class sizes and academic support groups.

The Board of Education has yet to approve and forward its budget to the City Council, but members are working on a proposed budget that calls for a 6 percent increase, or $3.2 million more, than the current $39.8 million budget.

"The board needs to make it clear that we need 6 percent to maintain the current level of services," Board of Education Chairman William Morse said Monday.

"If we get less than that, we're going to need to cut staff. We have staff really going above and beyond what they would normally be expected to do. If you further reduce resources, you really put in jeopardy the progress that has been made in reading and math."

Superintendent of Schools Nicholas A. Fischer has said if the council approves the proposed 6 percent increase, a majority of the positions in jeopardy could be saved.

He said the school district is expecting to receive an additional $792,821 from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's proposed increase in Education Cost Sharing funds.

That amount will lessen the 10 percent reductions across the district to about 7.6 percent, he said.

"If people in the schools expect to see the council's support, they're going to have to let them know that they have the public's support," Fischer said in terms of the council's approval.

"We've been very straightforward about this, I think it will totally depend on the amount of public support that they receive," he added.

The board is facing a nearly $3.8 million increase in transportation and utility costs, tuition increases and three new positions for the Winthrop Magnet Elementary School.

A 6 percent increase along with the additional ECS funds will help close that gap and maintain current services.

"We should all be advocating for a 6 percent increase that will by and large leave the schools' staffing levels untouched," Morse said at Thursday's school board meeting.

Board member Jason Catala advised the board to be "very, very careful" in making the cuts.

"I will not support any cuts to teachers," he said. "Cutting our low men on the totem pole is wrong. We need to move from the top down."

A special meeting to discuss the budget is scheduled for Thursday followed by a public hearing at 5:30 p.m. on March 8. The board is expected to submit its budget to the city by March 15.


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