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Superintendent's Budget Includes 6.5% Increase for District

In her proposed estimate of expenditures for the 2013/2014 budget season, Superintendent Janet Robinson requested increases in security, building and site maintenance, and other areas.

 

Eight additional full-time security guards for schools are part of the budget plan the Newtown school district hopes to put forward for the 2013-2014 season. But they aren't the only improvement school officials are hoping to make.

Superintendent Janet Robinson put forth a plan Tuesday evening for districtwide increases in fields she says are critical to bringing the district up to par. It adds up to a 6.54% budget increase. But it's a figure that comes in an unprecedented time of uncertainty, including uncertainty about where Sandy Hook students will be attending school, what will become of the school building itself and what funds will be available.

Robinson said she doesn't know what will happen to funds that have been donated from across the world since the December 14 school shooting that took the lives of 20 children and six adults.

"I don't have any idea," she said. "I don't know how much of it could be spent for security or mental health professionals, or other kinds of things that could benefit the students."

"Survival Numbers"

"Our role is to educate," said Robinson at the beginning of her presentation. "That means educating ourselves, too."

The presentation incorporated existing Board of Education budget goals, like the desire for a full-day kindergarten, which has been on the table for the past three budget cycles. Other budget goals include professional development, Common Core State Standards and a technology budget Robinson said has gone off-cycle.

Robinson's projection included up to a 12% increase in health insurance, increases in energy costs -- especially oil -- and increases in general wages for staff. Building and site maintenance projections, which had been on the decline in previous years, increased sharply in Robinson's budget to $1,074,000.

Overall, Robinson's proposed 6.54% increase is significant higher than previous years -- like the 1.16% increase in the 2011/2012 budget or the 0.57% increase in 2012/2013. But Robinson says it's necessary, calling the increase "survival numbers" -- unlike previous years.

"We put in the bare minimum," she told Patch. "There are many areas I would put more in. I would put more guidance counselors in. So yes, we scaled back, but it still came over 6%. It's just that we've gone so many years with deprivation."

A Hope for Expanded Security Measures

The eight security guards are one part of an increase in post-12/14 security that includes real-time video surveillance, which would allow police to monitor schools from police headquarters of from cars. The board voted Tuesday to change school policy to allow the surveillance system. Current policy only allowed surveillance in the case of a justifiable reason.

"When you're looking at the entrance, the justifiable reason becomes apparent only after the event," said Board of Education member Richard Gaines.

During public comments, three community members spoke -- occasionally emotionally -- about the desire to have armed guards. 

"We have police officers at malls, at movie theaters and other places," said Newtown resident John Bellow. "But for our most precious things, our young children, we have no security. I know there's talk about guns ... but the only way to stop a bad person with a gun is a good person with a gun ... This can never happen again."

The Board of Education can only request that the police department provide armed officers for schools, and the request must go before the Board of Selectmen, Robinson told Patch. School officers are paid out of the police department's budget.

Patch will bring you more updates and coverage from this and other Newtown Board of Education news in the coming days.

Emma February 02, 2013 at 05:12 PM
Since 2009, enrollment is down by almost 500 students (according to proposed 2013-2014). This would warrant a reduction in teaching staff. I agree with 110% the district should be laying off effective teachers and keeping poor performing ones. However, it seems to me it is a union issue, not budget, b/c the problem would still exist even if we had unlimited funding. Unless you are suggesting we not make reductions as enrollment decreases and keep and pay poor performers like they do in NYC.
Paul Alexander February 03, 2013 at 06:03 PM
The Superintendent should be relieved for the simple reason that she is a professional educator running a $70MM+ business. And there is NOTHING in the CV of ANY professional educator that qualifies them to successfully run a $70MM+ business with complicated labor and budget issues. Hiring another professional educator is not a recipe for success and I measure success as a combination of exceptional student performance at a reasonable cost with low labor volatility. The Superintendent position should be filled by a career business person with C-level experience and a track record of delivering exceptional performance at a reasonable cost with low labor volatility. The Assistant Superintendent position should be filled by a professional educator who would administer the school system on a day to day basis. That team of business leader and professional educator is the best plan.
Thomas Crafts February 03, 2013 at 09:10 PM
Paul, she's outa here, they chose not to renew her contract, ie, she's fired. You are right about her replacement but it'll never happen. You need to talk mom into Florida, because when you factor in taxes and gun laws this is a very inhospitable environment.
Paul Alexander February 04, 2013 at 02:02 PM
Ha! I haven't made the transition from "Fight" to "Flight" yet... I still believe that Connecticut will eventually "see the light"...The State and its residents will have their epiphany one way or the other...voluntarily, or forced upon them as a result of the very ugly fiscal circumstances that are about to erupt once the State’s tax base falls below critical support levels.
homeward bound February 26, 2013 at 01:47 PM
I'm not saying that I'm for or against your idea, but check out what happened when Bloomberg tried this. Google Cathie Black and read the Wiki. She lasted about 90 days. CEOs are used to giving marching orders. Speaking to a roomful of screaming parents is hard for a CEO to take.

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