Another vote tonight by New London school board on proposed finance department move

New London - The Board of Education tonight will again vote on the transfer and consolidation of the school district's finance department to the city's.

On April 26, school board members voted 5-2 - without discussion and against it's own finance committee's recommendation- to transfer the district's finance department to the city.

Board member Jason Catala said Wednesday that he requested that the motion be added to the meeting agenda because "there should have been more discussion."

"I've been doing a lot of thinking about how we went about taking that vote," Catala said. "There are numbers being thrown out from the city's side and then I hear another number from somewhere else. There are a lot of numbers being thrown around and I want the facts to be on the table."

When the board voted the first time, there was no discussion about the issue and the question was moved to a vote before board members had the opportunity to ask a question.

The vote and the lack of discussion among board members before the vote is seen as a point of contention by state Board of Education members and James Mitchell, the former Groton superintendent who was appointed by the state last year to oversee board operations.

The board's operations are the subject of a state audit which was discussed by the State Board of Education last week. The 22-page audit places blame on board members, the superintendent of schools, City Council and community members for failing to support the district's students. In the audit, the school board is accused of focusing too much on items that have nothing to do with improving student performance.

Catala said that his decision to add the motion to this evening's agenda isn't a reaction to the audit. Originally voting for the consolidation on April 26, he said his vote tonight could swing for or against the motion.

"There's no plan. I think we need a plan and a timeline so we're not jumping the gun," Catala said.

At the State Board of Education meeting last week, Mitchell said the city was not ready for the transfer of the district's finances. Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio had campaigned for a two- to three-year phased consolidation of the two departments but said last week that he was not prepared for the city and the school board to approve it this year.

Last month, the City Council agreed to the consolidation with the understanding that the Board of Education would save an estimated $500,000. The city's finance department absorbed the costs of the education finance department.

Superintendent of Schools Nicholas A. Fischer has said that it costs $539,768 to operate the school's business office, but has estimated that the transfer would lead to a savings of only $183,521.

He said Wednesday that there are still unresolved issues on the table that include who would take over the responsibilities of the insurance, human resources and child nutrition functions the schools finance department currently performs.

The school board meeting begins tonight at 7 p.m., at the Science and Technology Magnet High School.


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