Most questions about the $1 million reduction in the proposed school budget must wait for a special informational meeting Newtown town leaders have scheduled for Monday, but those at the Board of Education meeting Tuesday learned part of the answer to the question that might have defeated the budget in last week’s referendum.
That question: Why is the school budget increasing when school enrollment is going down?
School Supt. Dr. Janet Robinson said enrollment has gone down, but the decrease is distributed unevenly across all grades and schools, so it doesn’t easily allow her to cut teaching positions.
"Even though we show a decline of 150 students, they are at different places in the district," Robinson said.
She said declining enrollment must hit a "critical mass" before it can be translated into staff reductions without hurting the students’ education.
Robinson made her remarks during her report to the board, a regular agenda item. "Discussion and possible action regarding the 2012-13 budget" was also on the agenda, but Chairman Debbie Leidlein skipped it while announcing the meeting on Monday.
The informational meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. in , immediately prior to the Board of Selectmen meeting, limited to one hour. Members of the public will have a chance to ask questions about the school budget to the selectmen and members of the Board of Finance, Board of Education and Legislative Council.
Leidlein said the meeting was the idea of First Selectman Patricia Lladro.
She said it is intended to inform the public about the budget and get the vote out for the next referendum vote on May 15.
On April 25, following the defeat a day before of its first proposed budget, , reducing it to $68,355,794.
That is still an increase of about $384,000 from the present year, but it might jeopardize the district's plans to start all-day kindergarten.
It would also reduce the proposed tax increase from .57 mills to .31 mills (2.34 percent to 1.28 percent).
Council members who supported the reduction said their constituents had focused their complaints on the school budget. They said many had asked why the schools need more money when they have fewer students.
Robinson addressed another complaint that came out of the April 25 Council meeting, when Councilman Mitch Bolinsky blasted her for not attending the meeting.
The school superintendent said she was attending a meeting out of town that night and she was surprised no school board member defended her at the Council meeting.