Guilford board gets schools budget

Rachael Scarborough King; Register Staff
February 6, 2008

GUILFORD – After whittling down the proposed 2008-09 budget by $674,000, the Board of Education Monday night voted to send it on to the Board of Finance. The proposal is now about $48.3 million, down from the more than $49 million preliminary budget Superintendent of Schools Tom Forcella presented to the board last month.

The $48.3 million proposal represents about a 5.95 percent increase over the current package of $45.6 million. Forcella said that is the lowest increase the school district has presented to the Board of Finance in his three years as superintendent.

Forcella originally sent a budget to the Board of Education with a 7.4 percent increase over the current year, but board members set a goal of getting the increase under 6 percent, he said. The district held two public hearings on the budget last month.

Since the district came up with its prel iminary budget, Forcella said, its insurance provider has set its premium increases for the next fiscal year, which came in $326,000 under what the district had estimated.

“We had the luxury of having new numbers on our medical insurance,” he said. “We’re never quite sure, because we’re self insured, on what the final cost is going to be…so that’s about half of what we had to cut out of the budget.”

The board also decided not to purchase two new trucks for snow removal and sanding, which would have cost about $134,000, and to cut $100,000 from funds for site improvements. The rest of the cuts came from “small items here or there within the budget,” Forcella added.

Board of Education Chairman Bill Bloss said the board’s priority in cutting from the budget was to maintain classroom programming. Board members discussed what to do about a technology upgrade program in the budget and ultimately decided to keep the proposal in its current form, he said.

“The reason that we got so far behind the curve with technology in the first place is the feeling that we could always do it next year, and that got us into a position where we were many years behind,” Bloss said.

The board also increased funding to make a part-time speech pathologist position at the prekindergarten level full time. The preliminary budget included a number of personnel additions at all school levels, none of which were cut.

Bloss said that, while board members decided not to fund a carpet and tile replacement project for this year, they are aware of the facilities needs at many schools.

A facilities task force has been meeting for months to form recommendations on whether to renovate or replace Guilford High School and Elisabeth C. Adams Middle School.

“One of the reasons that we are in this situation that we’re in at the high school and at Adams is that it’s much easier to cut budgets for site improvements and maintenance than it is to increase class sizes, for example,” Bloss said. “We think that we’ve got a good balance right now – we are not shortchanging maintenance, but we are also not interested in going back to the days when there were 25 children in a class.”

The Board of Education will present the budget to the Board of Finance Feb. 14. After that, the Finance Board will hold a public hearing and two meetings to discuss the budget, and vote on it March 13. The referendum for the town to vote on the budget is set for April 8.

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