Less than 12 hours after the Legislative Council acted to reduce the school district’s budget request by another $300,000, Acting Superintendent John Reed was recording a two-part video message to the community, helping to launch a get-out-the-vote effort he promised to support through a third round referendum June 4.
During the course of about 15 minutes worth of conversation, he deconstructed some of the elements of the district’s spending plan to try to help taxpayers better understand what they would be paying for if they choose to support the current $71,045,304 request representing a 3.93 percent increase.
He urged residents to come out to vote, and asked parents in particular to work to pass the latest proposal, noting that in recent years the multiple budget failures are viewed by a growing number of district staffers as a lack of confidence in their efforts.
“Every vote counts,” he said. “It is essential that this budget be passed, and I respectfully ask for people who feel public schools are and will continue to be an important factor in Newtown to vote for the budget this year.”
Dr Reed said in the past four years, after multiple failed referendums, the district has received an average of “nine-tenths of one percent increase” — a fact that he reiterated to the council on May 22. And he said the “unknowns” that the future holds in terms of possible incoming grants and the individual aspects of recovery for staffers and students have him very concerned.
Several additional points Dr Reed made in a Thursday morning interview are:
*With the budget request as it stands now, it is really a question of “can we maintain the level of resources that we have this year for next year.”
*With $1.8 million less than originally requested by district administrators, new programs included in that original proposal may “not be available when the budget is presented for implementation.”
*The Board of Education generally does not take action to effect budget changes until a final approved measure is endorsed by taxpayers.
*With the most recent $300,000 reduction, it is “hard for me to see how full-day kindergarten can be implemented.”
*The latest reduction would not necessarily prevent the school board from working to finding a way to initiate the full-day kindergarten program, a local priority since nationwide standards of kindergarten learning will require its implementation in the near future.
*Because of previous budget years’ reductions to building maintenance budgets, the district began the current year $400,000 underfunded. That required an $800,000 infusion to this year’s requested increase — about 20 percent of the overall proposal.
*Dr Reed said every Newtown student should be offered the same “baseline” course selection as in every school in the state.
*The massive level of fundraising on behalf of the town has not infused the local school district with significant added revenue, and has not yet provided added funds to the town for school capital projects like the rebuilding of Sandy Hook School.
*Dr Reed believes when factoring the average increase the district has received during the past four years, along with the increase currently proposed, that Newtown’s average school budget is comparable or less than in most surrounding towns for the same period.