Support the BOE's request to fund STEM, Unexpected Special Ed costs & recall layoffs
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We, the undersigned support the Newington Board of Education's request to transfer $625,000 from the Capital appropriation to the Board of Education operating budget for the expressed purposes of
1. funding the High School STEM Academy
2. recalling four teacher layoffs
3. fully funding the unexpected special education outplacement costs for fiscal year 2017-2018.
This spring, the Newington Town Council passed a budget that included a 0.29% increase for the Board of Education (BOE). A minimum of 2.49% was needed to cover the costs of contractual salaries and benefits, and as a result of not fully funding the BOE, four teachers were laid off in addition to the high school STEM Academy being left unfunded once again.
Since the budget was passed, Newington Public Schools was saddled with hundreds of thousands of dollars of unexpected special education expenses due to new students to the district, which has caused further strain on the BOE’s ability to meet the needs of its students.
The BOE requested under Section C-807 of the Newington Town Charter, that the Town Council transfer $625,000 from the Capital appropriation to the Board for fiscal year 2017-2018 into the operating budget. The $625,000 in question is already allocated to the Board for Phase II of the JWMS Wing Reconfiguration Project, money that is not planned for use in 2017-2018.
Hundreds of students expected to take classes at Newington High School's STEM Academy, but now those students find themselves victim to budget cuts, even though the money is available without impacting the 2017-2018 taxes. Our town not only invested a large amount of money in the construction of the STEM Academy, and our students, who invested their time in the middle school STEM program, expected to continue their STEM education into High School.
There are important reasons to consider supporting this transfer: First, this proposal has no impact to the 2017-2018 bottom line. Second, there will be no change in the mill rate, and as a result, will incur no change in taxes. Finally, the STEM Academy can reduce the number of student leaving NPS and choosing magnet schools. Conservative estimates run close to $16,500 per student outplaced to a magnet program.
Although this transfer would raise the minimum budget requirement, the STEM Academy will end up paying for itself. It could even help bring in more money than it costs through such outplacement reductions – a fiscally prudent means of funding highly desirable programs during these leans times.
According to the Newington Town Charter, the Town Council cannot make budget transfer until the 2nd half of the year. However, we have yet to even enter the 2017-2018 fiscal year, which leads us to believe the Town Council should be able to find a way to make this work prior to the new fiscal year.
Ignoring these concerns will lead to the following:
1. Continued teacher and staff layoffs, which will result in increased class sizes in all grades;
2. Reduced programmatic offerings at all levels of age and ability. Funding special educations costs is not optional, and as a result, that funding will need to come from some place.
Without support from the Town Council through this approval, the residents of Newington will see significant, long-term harm done to their schools – something that drew many to move here in the first place.
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