Norwich school board delays budget vote, approves superintendent contract extension

Norwich — As expected after a Monday budget session brought no consensus on how to absorb a $4 million cut in the requested school budget, the Board of Education Tuesday delayed action on adoption of a final budget until after a closed-door meeting with the board’s attorney June 26.

The board voted 8-0 with member Robert Aldi absent to table action until after a closed-door 5:30 p.m. June 26 meeting with board attorney Anne Littlefield of Shipman and Goodwin to discuss legal options.

In early March, the board met with attorney Tom Mooney, also from Shipman and Goodwin, on legal options after City Council members made public statements that the requested 9 percent increase would not be acceptable.

After that closed-door session, board Chairwoman Yvette Jacaruso read a statement saying the board would consider taking the city to court if adequate funding is not provided.

On Tuesday, Jacaruso, who also chairs the budget expenditure committee, asked for board discussion on the budget and initially was met with silence.

“I think it’s all been said,” board member Joyce Werden said.

At Monday’s budget committee meeting eight board members heard the drastic moves that would be required to cut its requested $83 million budget to the $78.4 million total approved by the City Council last week. The board did receive word of an approximately $600,000 savings in insurance costs Monday, putting the gap at $4 million.

Superintendent Abby Dolliver said the board could not meet the $4 million cut and maintain safety and adequate programs.

“We’re going to need some help,” board member Aaron “Al” Daniels said Tuesday.

School Curriculum Director Thomas Baird told the board Tuesday that the school district also hasn’t heard from the state on the  Alliance District grant for the coming year. Baird said school officials expect to receive the same funding levels as last year, $3.9 million, and will use the funding for equipment and staffing according to the District Improvement Plan approved by the state.

The board met for 30 minutes in executive session Tuesday to discuss a contract extension for Dolliver and voted 8-0 to approve a one-year extension on her three-year contract running through the 2020-21 school year.

Jacaruso said the board reviewed salaries of other superintendents and found they earn “quite a bit more.” The board had budgeted for a 2 percent raise for Dolliver, whose current salary is $171,456.

“Abby declined any raise because she’d rather see the money used elsewhere,” Jacaruso said.

In May, the board gave Dolliver a favorable evaluation that praised her leadership, staff management and cheerleading for the district. In the written evaluation, the board asked Dolliver to focus on the biggest issues facing the school district, including funding, the high numbers of special education and English learner students, monitoring student achievement and “the challenge of inadequate funding.”

c.bessette@theday.com

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