By Nancy Guenther Chapman
NORWALK, Conn. – One Board of Ed member has a question: is the proposed budget submitted to the city last week really a step toward rebuilding in the wake of devastating cuts or just a patch job?
Interim Superintendent Tony Daddona introduced his $165 million proposed 2013-2014 Norwalk Public Schools budget with the phrase “rebuild” but board member Sue Haynie has concerns about continuing that process in the future.
“What happens next year, for 2014/15?” Haynie asked in an email. “This 2013/14 Budget has ‘enhancements’ equaling $1,455,154; it has ‘new hires’ equaling $1,105,578 – both of those get eaten up in 2014/15 by the $2.8 million Norwalk Federation of Teachers salary/step increases which comes back into play. And, the employee benefit costs are skyrocketing – this year they went up by $2.7 million (excluding the $3.1 million for the post retirement adjustments) – it was an 11 percent increase. Thus my question–is this budget really about ‘rebuilding’ or is it a ‘patch job’?”
Neither Daddona nor BOE Chairman Mike Lyons responded to an email requesting comment.
Haynie said at a recent BOE meeting that although the budget calls for a 3.4 percent increase over this year’s budget, the actual increase is much higher.
“We’re asking the city for an additional $2.7 million in capital improvements specifically for Common Core State Standards (CCSS) (see attached),” she explained in an email. “If we hadn’t had the $2.8 million savings from the NFT hard freeze (which we’ve never had before), the budget request would have been 5.15 percent per the NPS Finance Dept; if you add in the $2.7 million we’re asking for for 2013/14 for CCSS, we’re up to 6.8 percent.”
She thinks everyone – the board, the public and superintendent candidates – need to see rough draft budget projections for 2014-2015 ASAP.
“I know finance is working on a template for projections and to do it right and well,they will need time,” she said in an email. “But, that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about the big ticket items now and our own rough draft projections and looming fiscal cliffs. It also points to a need the new superintendent MUST have – strong skills in attracting outside funding dollars for well-designed, sustainable programs/staffing like (former Superintendent Susan) Marks did. She brought in $5 million in two years – this was unprecedented in NPS.. As an example, look in the Budget Book under Briggs High School (page 19); take a look at the costs for 2011/12 for teacher salaries ($820,715) and in 2013/14 ($120,061). The school was redesigned, and $577,000 in outside funding dollars came in each year for 2012/13 and 2013/14 (page 120).”