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School Board Hears "Painful" List Of Proposed Budget Cuts (With Poll)

Music program, Project Oceanology, teachers and tutors cut to meet the bottom line.

Ledyard Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Graner proposed what he described as "painful" and "horrendous" list of cuts to the 2012-13 school budget during a work session held by the Board of Education Wednesday night.

Graner said the cuts, which total $1,154,214, are necessary in order to deliver a zero-increase budget to the town, but it still leaves a $703,430 gap in the budget from a one-time federal grant that was used up this year. If taxpayers agree to bridge that gap, the tax rate will increase by approximately .75 mills, accoring to Paul Hopkins, the town's assessor.

Graner proposed the following cuts to next year's school budget:

Operations reductions totaled $243,444 and included reduced spending in textbooks, benefits, energy,  and software.

The bus that brings three students to the Dual Language & Arts Magnet Middle School in Waterford will be eliminated and so was tuition to Project Oceanology, which affects approximately 55 high school students, Graner said.

Salary reductions totaled $248,975 because paraprofessionals, administrators, and staff agreed to a zero percent pay increase and people in other areas were laid off or agreed to reduce hours from full- to part-time.

Approximately 12 tutors assisting in first grade academy, third grade math and an early reading program will be laid off.

One 20-hour a week secretarial position was eliminated, which will likely reduce two full-time secretaries to part-time status. One custodian also agreed to move from full- to part-time and surrendered a $6,000 uniform allowance.

Teacher reductions totaled $424,750 and include a full or partial reduction in teaching positions, coaching and extracurricular stipends.

Two special education positions teachers and one health teacher will be laid off.

One instrumental music position will be eliminated. Graner said fifth- and sixth-grade musical instruction will be taught for two hours after school, which is a fraction of the full-day to half-day programs schools have going now.

And, Graner proposed reduced teaching positions in middle school social studies middle school math, middle school language arts, middle school science, high school world languages, high school science, high school family and consumer science and the agri-science summer teachers.

Graner said that next year's enrollment is expected to be lower and the reduction of teaching hours increases class size by one or two students.

Also, the yearbook advisor, assistant senior advisor, assistant band director, business club advisor, the supervisor of publications and a football assistant will be unfunded next year.

Some savings, which amount to approximately $237,045, were captured through scheduled retirements.

After a reading of the proposal, Graner described it as "extremely painful"  and "a terrible list." He said the cuts were necessary in order to deliver a flat budget and maintain most of the quality programs the schools have in place.

"I can tell you there was due diligence in this work," said Sharon Hightower, the education board chairperson. "it was an attempt to do the least amount of harm to the students."

Hightower said the proposal was painful but it didn't have a big impact on the schools' core curriculum and programming.

Sharon Pealer February 02, 2012 at 11:41 AM
What would the cost of Project O be per student? As the parent of a high school student I have already paid the extra for UCONN marine biology and I wonder if the experience for students might not be better if the parents of really interested students were offered the chance to pay for it. I do question the cutting of science teachers at any level. It is my understanding that this is a critical subject area. Why would the town want to cut in one of the areas that is targeted nationally for improvement, or is this a ploy directed at twisting arms so that taxpayers agree to higher taxes? I did not fail to notice that these cuts do not cover the 700,000 dollar budget gap and that the gap alone will mean a tax increase. I also wonder about the cutting of the yearbook adviser, does that mean no yearbook? I do have to say that with the numbers I read last night, It seems that I am sending two students to UCONN for only two thousand dollars more tuition than it costs to educate one child for a year in the towns schools, something seems off balance here.
Mike Cherry February 02, 2012 at 12:52 PM
Sharon - not sure but it is probably what the state inputs to UCONN from taxes that keeps the tuition low. Does anyone have a figure for the percentage of per student cost coming from tuition at CT colleges and universities?
Mike Cherry February 02, 2012 at 01:00 PM
Most of us are not educators, school board members, or school superintendents and staff.Therefore, we must rely on those who are to make the right choices for our schools. Dr. Graner, Mrs. Hightower, BOE members and staff - you have my trust and support that you will make the right choice to protect our investment in our schools and maintain their excellence. Thank You for your efforts in our behalf
Stephanie Calhoun February 02, 2012 at 01:08 PM
The music program being cut is not at the middle school, it is the 5th and 6th grade music program. In Ledyard, 5th & 6th are still in the elementary school. The poll is a little misleading.
Stephanie Calhoun February 02, 2012 at 01:14 PM
Mike Cherry, you are right that we need to trust the people in the "know" with making these decisions. It is not about 3 students or 55 students, it is about a district that is tasked with providing the best education possible for close to 3,000 students! How we proceed in the future is really up to the citizens of this town. We need to make a choice if we are going to fully support our schools or keeping picking at them. Taking away more and more programs and opportunities for our children to learn and explore what intrigues their brains is not ideal as we try to produce well rounded, educated citizens to unleash into the world!
LiveForFreedom February 02, 2012 at 01:45 PM
I sure confident that Dr. Graner and the School Board members will make the best decision for a fair and appropriate choice of budget cuts that will least impact our schools and students. It is unfortunate that any of our students and town taxpayers will be impacted by any program cuts and / or any additional increases in addition to our very high property taxes. They know the school systems better than any of the residents and they have the best interest of the students in mind. The economic outlook for the 2012 -2013 state budget is not positive, with the State Comptroller Kevin Lembo forecasting a $73.6 million deficit for the fiscal year that ends June 30. The town and Board of Education should be prepared to look for efficiencies for the coming budget year as well so that we are not in this position again next year.
Alyssa Collins McIntyre February 02, 2012 at 02:17 PM
If we had agreed to the reorganization of the elementary schools that they had suggested lazy year, would that have saved us some of these cuts this year?
Sharon Pealer February 02, 2012 at 02:39 PM
I do not have the numbers as to the amount of money that the state gives to our colleges and university, however the state also through our taxes gives money to all of the towns to supplement that cost of education as well, and we do get federal funding through the state. My thoughts are based upon that simple fact. I also look at the fact that for Avery Point, the school was able to use self funding raised through rental of the mansion to fund the building of the new student center. The town needs to become creative to fund some of the cost in the same way every other entity has to in these times.
fvajdos February 02, 2012 at 03:57 PM
I agree that the cuts are painful but necessary, but what most concerns me is do we have a plan to eventually restore some of this funding, or are we in an educational death spiral, where we just keep cutting and cutting? I don't like paying taxes, but I would rather send my money to the town of Ledyard (where I can see how it is being spent) rather than Hartford or Washington.
Jessie King February 02, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Thanks catching that Stephanie! I corrected the poll.
Jami February 02, 2012 at 05:51 PM
When I see the a maintenance professional is giving up a $6,000 uniform budget I have to wonder... how many other items, that seem frivolous can be cut? Maybe cutting more items like this will save one of the programs looking to be cut.
Alyssa Collins McIntyre February 02, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Sorry I ment to say last year not lazy year.
Fred Allyn III February 03, 2012 at 12:11 AM
I agree, Jann. I know in the big picture, $6,000 is not a lot but how many other "uniform allowance" type items exist in the Board of Ed, and General Government budgets for that matter. It all adds up!
Waterford.Res February 03, 2012 at 02:49 PM
1. Per pupil expenditures for all towns in CT can be found at the CT State Dept. of Ed www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/PDF/dgm/report1/basiccon.pdf This 2011 report shows Ledyard with a per pupil expenditure of $12,438 2. UCONN classes taken in high schools have fees of $25 per credit that is payable directly to the university -the host high school does not see this money as far as I am aware ... a huge bargain ... compared to the approx. $300 per credit hour in state. tuition cost for a student attending UCONN.
Samuel Kilpatrick February 03, 2012 at 03:11 PM
The $6000.00 uniform allowance applies to the entire maintenance/custodial staff of about 30 men and women, not one individual. It was reported incorrectly.
Stephanie Calhoun February 03, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Project O costs $31,094 per year for the district. It not only benefits High School students but also provides an opportunity for all students from Ledyard to participate in Project O summer camps (at a cost to each family). Google Project O, very cool science opportunities for children!
Julian Lupienski February 05, 2012 at 11:52 PM
now let me get this striaght we are giving a choice of either cutting educational expenses or increase the mill rate, but we, taxpayers, are not giving a chance in ending a lawsuit, taxing slot machines, or folding after spending over 900k on legal fee,with no end in sight. the day paper, who has no dog in this fight, is encouraging our elected officials to continue. our elected officials, this includes the present and the two previous mayors the day, heartly, endorsed, appear to go along with this foolish spending. even if we win, it would take years to recoup money spent. who would benifit besides the town; others, who are standing by, watching us throw money away like we have a endless supply hoping we will win, they win. we have priorities and continue to chase slot machines tax should not be one of them. our elected officials, like problem gramblers think just one more time and our ship will come in. like kenny rodgers song know when to hold and know when to fold, it is time to fold. this town needs a change in management and it starts at the top .
Mike Cherry February 06, 2012 at 01:58 AM
Julian If the 320k square foot mall comes in on the MPTN reservation this lawsuit has greater significance. Plus doesn't principle have any weight these days? Or does he who has the gold make the rules?
Julian Lupienski February 06, 2012 at 04:27 PM
mike no amount of principles will pay for schools or roads. these princilples you speak of seem to fall on deaf ears and closed pocketbooks of others who might benifit. this mall along with slot machines with added taxes and no assurance of winning will take decades to recoup. it is time to cut our loses and stop throwing good taxpayer dollars at attorneys. the town is a problem gambler and needs to go cold turkey

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