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Board of Education Approves Region 15 School Budget

Board votes 9-1 to approve no increase budget.

The Region 15 Board of Education approved the 2012-13 fiscal year budget proposed by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Sippy Monday night at Pomperaug High School.

The board approved the proposal, $60,251,578 or no increase from the previous year, by a vote of 9-1 and the budget will now proceed to referendum on May 2.

The proposed budget suggests spending increases in salaries, insurance and transportation from the previous year. The budget remains flat though, due to reductions in facilities and instructional costs, along with a large reduction in tuition costs from the 2011-12 fiscal year.

A slideshow presentation, shown before the approval vote, presented by Board of Education Chairwoman Janet Butkus boasted improvements to the region over the next fiscal year.

The proposed budget calls for an increase of six staff members, improvements to indoor air quality systems, the addition of 35 interactive whiteboards in Memorial and Rochambeau Middle Schools and facility improvements to Pomperaug High School’s physical science labs.

Butkus pointed to staff, operational and revenue adjustments made by the Board of Education as the reason they had the ability to come in with no increase.

“We weren’t just lucky, the board worked very hard to be able to present this budget to the public tonight,” she said.

The one board member that delivered a ‘No’ vote on the budget proposal, Francis Brennan of Middlebury, voiced his concerns over the budget, saying he felt the board should be presenting a one percent decrease.

“We need to introduce an element of prudence on how we spend our money,” said Brennan. “I would feel very comfortable with a one percent budget reduction.”

Brennan was also concerned over the lack of public participation, saying no one is representing the voice of the public.  There was not a single public comment either during the public hearing or the board meeting that immediately followed, and only a handful of citizens were in attendance Monday night.

Butkus said she felt the public was comfortable with the proposed budget and a zero increase, saying she hasn’t seen any emails or letters to the editor streaming in as she has in past years. Brennan said that the board needed to look further than the current year.

“Everyone is content with a zero percent budget this year, but if we live for one year we live to die,” said Brennan. “If the will is there, a one percent reduction can happen.”

Butkus said the board would not entertain the idea of reductions or new figures unless the budget was to fail. If the budget had failed, the board would have gone back into budget workshops to reform the proposed budget figures.

With the approval, the budget will now go to referendum on May 2. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Southbury Firehouse and Middlebury Shepardson Center.

Pgmr9 April 10, 2012 at 10:04 AM
cut the transportation budget, with all these parents dropping/picking up their kids, its just a WASTE of OUR tax money, every day i see the large school buses on my road with 3 kids in them, there is no need for this, cut the number of buses and redo the routes so at least the buses are full
Gary April 10, 2012 at 11:01 AM
"The proposed budget calls for an increase of six staff members," HUH? enrollment in schools has been down and the BOS wants to hire more staff. I'll be voting NO on May 2cd.
Thad Burr April 10, 2012 at 01:25 PM
Dr Sippy and his staff have masterfully played the PR game in order to convince parents and BOE members that a zero percent budget increase is the product of a lot of hard work to keep it that low, while neglecting to mention that the Region has lost hundreds of students over the past 8 years, and the budget should be cut.
KDG April 10, 2012 at 02:54 PM
I agree with this statement. I'm a graduate of PHS from 2005 and even then, parents were dropping kids off causing traffic and school buses to be late for their next route. It makes no sense, as a parent, to complain about the budget if you're not using the public transportation provided by the town but paid for by the taxes you pay. Further more, I've seen an increase not only of this at the high school level but also at the elementary and middle schools. Can it be inferred that this will result in even more separation of wealth throughout the family that resides in the region 15 district? I believe so, because lets face it. Stereotypically, kids view being driven in by their parents in an expensive car as popularity, where as taking the school bus might be looked at as coming from lower wealth.
Ruth April 10, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Definitely do not understand why six staff members need to be added. Seems to me when I went to school, classes were actually taught by the teachers without aides or children having to work "independently", and the class size was always 30 plus. Gee, and guess what......our school excelled, I graduated with high honors and graduated college summa cum laude. Guess that the old ways don't work, huh? Also agree with the transportaion budget idea. Any school day on our road, we cannot get out of our road without waiting for the HUGE backup of parents dropping their children off. It is a traffic nightmare. The parents don't seem to care about the speed limits as they are in such a rush, are rude and think nothing of blocking the road or cutting people off. Why these children have to be driven to school every day is beyond me.
Gary April 11, 2012 at 03:57 PM
The BOS attitude is if the public doesn't attend the meetings to look out for how our taxpayer dollars then you won't see the BOS sharpen their pencils and cut any spending unless the budget fails. A budget of over $60 million to run only seven schools...WOW.
Gary April 11, 2012 at 04:03 PM
"We need to introduce an element of prudence on how we spend our money,” said Brennan. “I would feel very comfortable with a one percent budget reduction.” Thank you Mr. Brennan for being the ONLY BOS member thinking frugally. I'm sure a larger reduction would also be possible.
Gary April 19, 2012 at 10:33 PM
BOE member Brennan quote “If the will is there, a one percent reduction can happen.” BOE member/chairman Janet Butkus quote "Butkus said the board would not entertain the idea of reductions or new figures unless the budget was to fail." One percent of $60,251,578 is $602,515.78 over half a million dollars in savings could be made to the taxpayers, and the article states that our BOE wants to hire six more staff. What are the long term costs of hiring in this economy? Why isn't the BOE looking out for saving the taxpayers money?

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