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School Officials Call Proposed Budget 'Critical'

School district officials and principals told the Board of Education that the proposed 5.98 percent budget is essential to preserving the quality of Tolland schools.

School officials and the Board of Education categorized the for Tolland schools as "critical" for education quality at the first budget workshop of the season on Wednesday night.

The assembled school officials and principals answered questions about the proposed budget at the workshop and stressed that the budget proposal is preserving the bare bones of the Tolland school system.

"We worked very hard to get this down here to where it's at. Without it, it's catastrophic," said Superintendent William Guzman, who said that the district's principals originally presented requests that resulted in a 9 and a half percent budget increase.

"There isn't anything at this point that we can afford to lose," said Principal Walter Willett.

He pointed out that the two world language positions transitioning from grant funds to the local budget are essential not only for keeping foreign language in the school, but are preserving the school's current seven-period schedule. Without those faculty members, Willett said that the middle school would revert to a six-period schedule, a move that he categorized as "catastrophic."

A number of other positions are included in the budget, some of which are being transferred from grant funding to the budget to maintain those staff members, Guzman said. A few are only on the budget because Guzman said the school district anticipates receiving certain grants, but budgets for the positions in case the grants don't come through.

The personnel summary is also available online.

The administrators spoke about several issues that have developed due to long-term cuts in various area. Principal James Dineen mentioned that previous cuts to the custodial budget have impaired the school's cleanliness, since classrooms can no longer be cleaned on a daily basis.

Willett also highlighted the inadequacy of some school technology, explaining that a number of computers failed during the Connecticut Mastery Test examination last year, causing a logistical and administrative headache.

Currently, there is $60,000 designated for 300 new computers in the proposed budget.

While the school officials defended the necessity of the budget, Guzman added that the district is still actively looking for ways to save money. He said Cigna is currently investigating a possible regional insurance program in which approximately 12 school districts would participate. Hypothetically, the regional program could lower costs Guzman said, although he said more research is necessary.

The board discussed putting the budget vote on the Jan. 25 agenda as an action item, although that has not been posted online. 

The budget is available on the Tolland schools web site.

Bob S January 20, 2012 at 03:06 PM
What a load of manure. How does the BOE expect to get 6% every year, yet many companies are going another year without giving raises due to the poor economy. Does the town of Tolland print their own money? It seems like the BOE believes they do.
Irene January 20, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Comparing educating school children to employees in companies is an unfair comparison--if we keep cutting back classes and programs in our educational system, our children won't be prepared to work in any company. The long term effects of sub-par education are staggering. We cannot expect our teachers to teach effectively without giving them the tools they need to do so. The cost of just keeping the schools open and operational have increased dramatically. Do I want my taxes to go up? Of course not, but not at the expense of our future generation.
Josh Freeman January 20, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Bob, The BOE doesn't expect to get 6% every year, nor does it actually receive 6%. 6% is the request and the need is greater. The budget reflects the BOE, administrators, and Superintendents view as to the funds necessary to maintain the level of service currently in place in the school district. The decision, therefore becomes whether we will maintain existing programs or cut them. I am greatly reducing the complexity of the issues at hand, but it's still better, I feel, then simply calling it a "load of manure". I encourage you to provide feedback on how instructional programs could remain unaffected without an increase. Believe me, many eyes are focused on this exact topic. Regards, Josh
Bob M. January 21, 2012 at 04:52 PM
I agree with the 6% or so every year, and the several budget iteratiosn to get reasonable. If the BOE put out a reasonable position, and understanble plan, most voters would begin to believe in the numbers and vote for it the first time. Unfortunatly we are in for 2-3 budget iterations again this year..
Jim G. January 21, 2012 at 06:24 PM
I think we go through multiple iterations for a single, simple reason: a large faction of voters are opposed to ANY increase of the school budget, regardless of the need, situation, economic changes, etc. The BOE is fully aware of this and presents a budget that comes nowhere near addressing the real needs, but is a compromise between those needs and the reality that there is a fixed 49% NO vote waiting. Since the reality is that personnel costs rise every year, regardless of the general economic downturn, and we either increase the school budget JUST TO STAY AT THE SAME LEVEL, or we cut school programs further. Cutting school programs is NOT like a business or even a household tightening it's belt - both business and households can bounce back quickly from lean times. Schools (and things like fire, police, hospital and other community services) take cuts much more harshly, and regrow only slowly and badly, like a radically pruned tree. The damage is NEVER really undone for students, patients and those who get crippled service from emergency responders. The loss of school programs, established teachers and coaches, etc. can take years to restore even if money rains from the skies in future years. I don't think either faction is right - neither the largely older, post-kids, retired faction who absolutely oppose any increase, nor the family households who want no cuts. But we have to keep the FUTURE of Tolland in mind, which may cost us in comfort today.

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