Milford officials fret over budget timing
Milford Bureau Chief
MILFORD — Top Board of Education and school officials say they are worried the final budget for 2008-09 will be approved too late to retain current first-year teachers or to help recruit the best candidates for necessary positions.
School board Chairman David Hourigan, D-4, told board members Monday night that the Board of Aldermen may not vote on the school budget until May 29, which would put the school board in a “bad situation” because it then would be hard to “hire people.”
School officials are anxiously awaiting aldermanic action on the district’s budget. The Board of Finance in March reduced the school board’s proposed budget for next fiscal year by $2.1 million, from $82.9 million to $80.8 million. Polansky has said to maintain the same level of services for next year would require a 5.4 percent increase in spending.
After the Finance Board reduced the school board’s budget increase from a proposed 6.4 percent to 3.7 percent, Polansky said the district would have to reduce staff and programs. Also fanning the flames were the layoff notices sent to 180 non-tenured teachers, which occurred following cuts to proposed spending.
School officials are lobbying aldermen to reinstate at least $1.3 million to the budget, which would ensure current services are maintained. Some Democratic aldermen have expressed a willingness to reinstate $1.3 million, but because it would require a two-thirds majority vote, at least one Republican would have to support such a measure.
Hourigan said the “major hardship” is on the 180 teachers who received their layoff notices.
“It’s a very stressful time for them,” Hourigan said. “It leaves them hemming and hawing about whether to look for jobs elsewhere or to take jobs elsewhere.”
He also said it’s difficult for the district to recruit new teachers for shortage areas such as special education and world language.
Aldermanic Chairman Ben Blake, D-5, said aldermen would begin budget deliberations Monday, and also have scheduled meetings May 21, 27 and 29. Blake said he hopes the budget will be wrapped up May 21, but the school portion is the last item to be addressed.
All meetings will begin at 7 p.m. at City Hall.
Blake declined to say definitively whether all nine Democrats support reinstating money requested by the school board.
“The Democrats are looking to strike the right balance that meets the needs of our school children and the remainder of our taxpayers,” Blake said. “We’ve addressed some of the needs of our senior citizens through additional tax relief.”
Alderman Scott Willey, R-4, said he would advocate for the school budget to be the first line item reviewed.
He said it makes sense since the Democrats are discussing reinstating funds, and it can lay a foundation for the rest of the budget.
Willey declined to comment on whether Republicans would support reinstating proposed education spending, but he again said it was Democrats who promised during the recent election to cut taxes.