State Rep. Tom Reynolds stood before a modest crowd of concerned parents, students and staff at a public hearing on the proposed education budget cuts Tuesday night and delivered somber news from Hartford.
"We have a long road ahead before Hartford gets its own fiscal house in order," he said of the unlikely chance of increased state funding. "If state funding is flat for the next decade and your costs keep rising, it is simply an unsustainable model."
Reynolds said that Ledyard's budget dilemma is not unique and that towns across the state need to pool resources.
"The district will not look the same 10 years from now," he said. "We need to look at regionalizing and sharing services and re-thinking the educational system in Connecticut."
The forum was hosted by the school board's finance committee and Reynolds was one of approximately 30 people who commented on next year's proposed school budget, which has to be cut by $1.14 million to be a zero-increase budget.
that achieved the zero-increase mainly by laying off a handful of teachers and tutors, reducing a music instruction program for 5th and 6th grades and cutting Project Oceanology.
Michelle Hinton, the chair of the committee, began the public hearing with an attitude of cooperation. "It's going to take all of us to keep an open mind and it's going to take all of us to come up with a creative vision for the town."
Most people spoke in vafor of keeping musical instruction offered to 5th and 6th grade students. Support for the program was underlined when program teacher Steve Shaw stood to speak and the audience burst into applause.
Kirsten Solomon, who has two children in Ledyard schools, said that since the district doesn't have a gifted and talented program, music is one of the outlets for advanced students to expand their skill set. Solomon said she supported a "pay to play" scenario to keep music education.
David Bednarz and members from the Ocean Sciences Bowl Team stood in support of keeping Project Oceanology. , all attested to the program's influence in their career choices and college applications.
A few parents stood up to advocate for the reading program.
Camie Lozier has two daughters in and she said that without the MSLE program, "my oldest daughter would not be reading right now." She said her youngest daughter is making progress too and, "I believe if that program stays in that school, that she will learn to read."
Gail Curtain, a school employee, urged board members to talk to people working in the schools and reduce the amount of wasted resources.
"Let's get that under control before we cut these great programs," she said.
Some solutions, like cutting another position or combining bus routes, were aired and some people questioned what the town is doing to encourage more business in Ledyard.
The board will discuss the budget again during its regularly scheduled meeting on Feb. 15 and vote at a special meeting on Feb. 22.