Guilford schools seek 3.7% increase

Tuesday, January 13, 2009 6:27 AM EST
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

GUILFORD — Superintendent of Schools Thomas Forcella presented an initial 2009-10 budget to the Board of Education Monday night with an increase of 3.7 percent, which he said would mark his lowest request in years.

Referring several times to the difficult economic times confronting the town and state, Forcella said that his budget included cuts in capital investment, supplies and materials, and purchased services.

The proposed budget has an increase of nearly $1.8 million, over the 2008-09 budget of $48.2 million. Last year, Forcella’s initial budget represented a 7.3 percent jump over the 2007-08 package.

Forcella said that fixed costs including salaries and benefits covered almost 94 percent of the request, so officials reduced funding for areas like office supplies and textbook purchases.

“We’re actually trying to go down to every last paperclip that we have in trying to get this budget to something we think is reasonable in terms of this particular economic climate,” he said.

Reductions in electricity and fuel costs, which many towns have seen as those prices have come down in recent months, also figured in Forcella’s budget presentation.

Also, Forcella said he hopes to trim professional development costs by conducting some training within the district rather than sending teachers to conferences.

The district has also postponed adding positions that were part of a plan for this year, he said.

“For the upcoming year we weren’t anticipating the economic issues that we are addressing in this particular budget, so many of the kinds of things that we wanted to address this year … have been pushed (back) now but not forgotten for the upcoming years,” he said.

The Board of Education will hold public meetings later this month for residents to comment on the budget.

State Sen. Edward Meyer, D-Guilford, and Rep. Patricia Widlitz, D-Guilford, also appeared at the meeting to discuss the budget concerns that the state is facing. Both said they are hoping to avoid cuts to towns at a time when municipalities are already worried about funding for the coming fiscal year.

“We will do the very best we can … to not shift the burden of the budget to municipalities, and it’s going to be a very difficult balancing act,” Widlitz said.

Meyer said that legislators may encourage towns and school districts to look into ways to collaborate with neighboring areas, which Forcella said Guilford is already pursuing.

“Even at this very, very difficult time we must really not be cutting aid to schools,” Meyer said.

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