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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Schools chief asks aldermen to restore $2.1M in cuts

By Brian McCready
Milford Bureau Chief
— Superintendent of Schools Harvey B. Polansky said when he was hired a year ago, it was never his intention to “dismantle the school system.”
Polansky formally requested Wednesday night that the Board of Aldermen restore $2.1 million previously cut by the Board of Finance.
Polansky told the aldermen the future of the district is in their hands, and if the cuts are restored, there will be no teacher layoffs.
“I come here tonight to ask you to restore the funds so nobody gets laid off and class size remains the same or even gets better,” Polansky told the aldermen at City Hall.
The Board of Finance last month reduced the school board’s budget by $2.1 million, from $82.9 million to $80.8 million. Polansky has stated in order to maintain the same level of services next year, the schools would require a 5.4 percent increase.
After the finance board reduced the schools’ budget increase from a proposed 6.4 percent to 3.7 percent, he said the district would have to reduce staff and programs. Also fanning the flames was the fact that 180 nontenured teachers received layoff notices.
Last month, about 500 people packed City Hall, with a majority advocating that the education funds be restored.
Polansky said 50 percent of the total increase, or $2.5 million, is due to an arbitration award the teachers’ union received. He also said the rising costs of fuel, along with special education, and health insurance increases are to blame for the seemingly significant budget increase.
Polansky also said the district lost $230,000 in federal funds, which now must be absorbed in the school budget.
Polansky said since salaries and benefits comprise 80 percent of the district’s budget, he will have no choice but to lay off some staff if a majority of the budget reduction is not reinstated.
“There are not enough paper clips to bridge that difference,” Polansky said. “I did not come to the school system to dismantle it.”
Polansky also told the aldermen he is appreciative of the $7.5 million the schools received for capital projects this year, but if he received a $100 million check today he could easily spend it on improvements to both high schools.
He also said Simon Lake, Pumpkin Delight and East Shore Middle School need significant repairs.
Alderman Scott Willey, R-4, a father of four children, including an autistic son, said he cannot say enough good things about the education system. Willey said he never appreciated the special education program until his son needed the services. He said he has a great appreciation for how much taxpayer money is spent on his son alone.
“It’s overwhelming,” Willey said. “The first thing I say as a father of an autistic kid is to give you whatever you want.”
But Willey said as a taxpayer, the school budget continues to far outpace the city side, and the taxpayers cannot simply keep up. He said it’s forcing departments like police and fire to not grow at a time when the city’s commercial base is booming.
Polansky said it’s unlikely that school budgets will decrease as long as arbitration awards are handed out at over 4 percent, and the costs of fuel continue to skyrocket.
“I wish I had a better answer,” Polansky said.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is just WRONG!
Enrollment is down - he wants more teachers, why? Maybe the teachers should just show up. The amt. of money scheduled for substitutes is astounding. A large majority of the City Tax Payors do not even have children in the school system. Maybe we should have some consideration here!!!!
Drive by the elementary scools - the parking lots are full - What to these people do? Next year we will be asked for tax dollars to expand the parking lots!
He has not been asked to deconstruct the system - he has be asked to work smarter - Is he up to the JOB? Maybe not!

May 5, 2008 at 7:25 AM 

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