Parents, teachers offer input on New Milford budget
The schools’ $63.3 million budget is part of New Milford’s overall $101.5 million budget proposal, which also includes $38.1 million for the town. The town portion of the overall budget was $102,000 less than the proposal voters defeated May 15, while the schools budget had not changed.
The revised proposal included $500,000 more for schools than this year’s budget, but that figure is about $968,000 less than what the school board requested earlier this year. School officials will have to find ways to reduce spending to meet whatever voters approve.
Though no cuts have been suggested yet, the school board hosted a listening session last week to hear from the public about what should be kept and what should be removed.
This came about a week after several board members said that possible cuts should be shared with the public before this week’s referendum. Generally, the board makes adjustments once a budget is approved at referendum and the numbers are set.
“The earlier we can put those things out, to me, it makes us more transparent,” board member Angela Chastain said last week, adding it might generate more public input.
About 10 people attended the public hearing, with the bulk of the discussion focusing on the importance of preserving K-5 spending at its current level, as well as the talented and gifted programs.
Megan Byrd, a parent who has become a vocal advocate for increased school spending, asked school officials to keep the enrichment programs and to ask parents to pick up the cost before cutting it entirely.
“They’re huge draws for my kids,” she said. “It’s beneficial socially, it’s beneficial intellectually. They get a lot out of it.”
Several speakers also refuted the idea that the district had too many secretaries or administrators, which has come up during previous budget discussions.
“It’s busy all of the time,” Byrd said. “To say they’re not necessary is false.”
Jennifer Tuozzoli, a kindergarten teacher and town resident, asked school officials not to cut elementary programs because they’ve already been trimmed over the years. She said research shows if there is a gap among students at the K-2 level, the gap will only grow in the later grades. She said paraprofessionals are vital contributors to the classroom.
“While manageable now, thought needs to go into para support and student behavior,” she said.
Another suggestion made during the hearing was to continue partnering with other towns to share costs.