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Surplus in current Norwalk schools budget could help city get under 2014-15 cap

Norwalk Superintendent Manny Rivera presents the Board of Education budget to Common Council members in January.

NORWALK, Conn. – While the Norwalk Board of Estimate and Taxation pores over the proposed budgets from every city department in search of $500,000 worth of cuts, the Board of Education just might have a solution – take it from the schools.

“When was the last time the BoE helped the city with a budget problem? “BOE Chairman Mike Lyons rhetorically asked in an email to Nancy on Norwalk Wednesday night.

So how is it the BOE can find $500,000 extra in its budget?

Insurance. The Norwalk Public School System is self-insured and maintains an account to cover contingencies based on a complex set of factors. (To see NPS Chief Financial Officer Rich Rudl’s full explanation, click here: Insurance Surplus Budget Adjustments)

In a nutshell, conservative projections in the current budget led to a budget surplus of $1,984,572.

Superintendent Manny Rivera and Rudl have plans for some of that surplus, plans that will be debated by the full Board of Education and voted on in April, Lyons said. This includes funding for P-Tech Academy (P-Tech), including an academy director and a technology assistant at a combined $167,329 in salary and benefits.

Rivera would also like to hire a K-5 literacy director at $170,731 salary, taxes and benefits; a school safety and security coordinator (teacher on assignment) ) to lead school safety, school climate, bullying and related initiatives at a cost of $111,794 in salary, benefits and taxes; four teachers originally budgeted in Alliance that were moved back to the local budget to to projected disallowance by the state education commissioner ($378,327); carry forward of special education transportation budget transfer ($150,000); carry forward of special education tuition/consulting services ($12,285); an additional class size aide (Kendall) ($28,135); move a half-time technology coach from Alliance to local to free up fiscal year 15/16 alliance funding to ensure funds are available for a second year of Common Core Instructional Site Director ($42,210 salary and payroll taxes); and additional deposit into the insurance trust fund over existing projections to provide additional preventative funding for margin in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 budgets ($423,761).

The total of all of the above is $1,484,572.

“After adding these items back into the budget,” Rudl wrote in his presentation, “we would have excess funds of $500,000 which could be returned to the City, with a Total Base Budget in FY 14/15 of $166,430,865, a 2.56 percent increase over current year’s.”

“This would allow the BoE to absorb the entire $500K cut in the cap set by the council,” Lyons said in his email, “so the BET would not have to find those cuts in the other departments’ budgets.”

But would adding the positions create a problem in the budget going forward if insurance overages are not as high in the future?

“Since our three-year projection was based on an insurance cost base $2M per year higher than actual,” Lyons wrote, “the savings from that base should cover these positions in future years (i.e., this isn’t a one-time windfall – its a long-term saving based in the conversion to HSA accounts, which will remain in effect in future years).

“That being said, of course, if tough budgets come in the future there could be an impact,” Lyons continued, “but eight additional positions on top of over 1,100 existing employees is a pretty small change.”

Lyons said he expects “strong support” from the BOE for Rivera’s and Rudl’s proposal “since it is consistent with our strategic plan.”

Comments

21 responses to “Surplus in current Norwalk schools budget could help city get under 2014-15 cap”

  1. the donut hole

    $170k for a k-5 literacy director.
    .
    un-freaking-believable.

  2. the donut hole

    to put this 170k per year for a k-5 lit director…..
    .
    assuming 4% growth rate as the BOE historically has done and a 20 year career…..
    .
    this k-5 lit director will earn $5 million.
    .
    stop this insanity RIGHT NOW.

  3. Mike Lyons

    Well, everything in context. The $170K is all-in (the salary would be $144K). Taking your model, if we assume a 3% per year growth in overall school spending, we’ll spent $4.6 billion (that’s right, billion) on education in the next 20 years. The $5 million you project for the Literacy Director would be 1/10th of 1% of that total. K-5 literacy is the most important thing we do; get that right, and most children will flourish. Get it wrong (like now) and half the kids will graduate with inadequate reading ability (which means inadequate ‘just about everything’ ability). Isn’t it worth it to spend that 1/10th of 1% to try and make sure that the remaining 99.99% isn’t wasted?

  4. Lifelong Teacher

    Thank you, Mike Lyons. K-5 literacy has been rudderless for a long time. In the schools, we’ve had to figure it out for ourselves – some doing a better job than others. We need a strong director and someone to follow through in every one of the twelve schools.

    And someone needs to oversee the hiring process so that this choice is clean, honest and transparent, with the most qualified candidate getting the job.

  5. the donut hole

    Or, call up a successful school district and ask if you can copy their reading list. Spend the $5 million on teachers and not more bureaucracy. Everyone knows this position will end up going to some deadbeat who couldn’t hack it in a classroom. Stop the madness already.

  6. Marjorie M

    Don’t we already have a Language Arts administrator in central office for K-12? Now her job is even easier? Take away K-5, but don’t take away any pay? Less work for the same pay? Sorry, that doesn’t make sense!

  7. Mike Lyons

    Our K-12 administrator has expertise in upper grades English but not early ELA, which is quite distinct. Adding a person with expertise in early ELA makes sense given the need to close the gap (which originates there). There is plenty of Common Core work to do in grades 6-12 English, so I doubt the current administrator will have nothing to do.

  8. Marjorie M

    First it was literacy specialists in every building, now it’s a central office literacy specialist for all the buildings. Every “specialist” comes with the promise of closing the gap. It’s all politics! Go back fifteen or twenty years……Assistant Language Arts Supervisors in addition to the Supervisor, Reading Recovery teachers…..on and on and on. Do you really believe a K-5 “specialist” will close the gap or add to an inflated central office, Mike? NOT the answer, in my opinion. It has been tried before. Then again, the new Common Core doesn’t have my backing either, especially the way it is being implemented…not just in Norwalk. More and more money poured down the drain. The truth is, fix society. Fix parenting. Students are already in the gap before they start school if there’s little or no vocabulary when they enter school.

  9. Marjorie M

    By the way, and correct me if I am wrong, don’t the high schools have department chairs in English? Don’t these teachers get paid extra to make sure the English teachers are following the current curriculum? Isn’t it true that an administrator at that level isn’t really meaningful?

  10. Jack R

    So a person hired as a k to 12 admin is weak in the lower grades. Am I understanding this correctly? If I am, then it begs the question why were they hired in the first place? I can assume they are getting paid quite handsomely also. Was it a union bid?.

  11. Marjorie M

    Well at least Jack R understands what is going on. The rest of you need to pay attention! It’s YOUR taxes.

  12. Marj, your solution to everything in prior posts has been to increase teacher salaries, which makes absolutely NO sense if the only way to improve student outcomes is to “fix society. Fix parenting.” Why waste money on teachers, then? We should just let the advantaged kids succeed and have the schools effectively abandon everyone else, if the cause is hopeless. And we should stop all teacher raises forever.

    I don’t accept that fatalistic acceptance of failure.

    Jack, many people were hired in years past and are protected by union contracts; I wasn’t involved in those decisions, and have to work improvements around what’s there. Its like building a new highway; you have to build the new one around the old one – you can’t just shut the old one down while you work.

    What we are trying here has NOT been tried before, and we either try SOMETHING, or we join Marj in throwing up our hands and giving up. That’s not what I joined the Board of Education to do.

  13. anonymous

    The K-12 director has experience in upper level English but not elementary school? Leave elementary school not knowing how to read and what happens in high school is a given, you flunk out.

    How long has that problem been going on?

  14. Marjorie M

    Wouldn’t you think a K-12 ELA Administrator would at least have expertise in early literacy? Where’s the accountability? Never mind appointing a NEW, ADDITIONAL COSTLY ADMINISTRATOR. BoE, figure this one out! Where’s the accountability you wanted?

  15. Mike Lyons

    Chill, Marj – this is all one step at a time.

  16. the donut hole

    Good analogy with the highway thing. Except the teacher’s and administrator’s unions make the people who work in the cement business look like lapdogs. The mafia never had a scam so rich as the current cabal of big education does. Think about what could have been done with the billions upon billions that have been stripped away from hard working Americans in the names of helping their children. Maybe if Mom and Dad weren’t working like dogs to pay for this scam, they’d have more time to make sure the kiddies did their homework.

  17. Marjorie M

    Chill???????? One step at a time? So has the paper trail started for the K-12 language arts administrator? You really believe the union is going to let you fire her? She applied for the job as a k-12 ELA administrator and was hired for that job. So now what? She will be written up for not doing the job? Is that really what you are thinking?

  18. anonymous

    No one gets fired in public education, they get shuffled. Big cities have rubber rooms and smaller ones rotate their lemons and have padded central offices.

  19. Marjorie M

    You are right, anonymous. Nothing has changed. Sigh……..

  20. Jack R

    If an employee is not doing the job, or capable of doing the job, issues need to be documented and subsequent discipline followed. Saying there is nothing we can do about it is part of the problem.

  21. anonymous

    Can document, then as you pass Go, pay $200 (thousand) hire attorney, wait a few years. public school employees almost need to commit a felony to get rid of

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