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Board of Education Preparing for Budget Season

The board is investigating cost-saving measures like an early retirement package, and discussing costs to conduct a search for a new school superintendent.


The Newtown Board of Education spent much of its meeting on Nov. 20 looking for ways to save money in the 2013-14 school budget.

The next budget cycle is likely to be difficult, because the school budget will be bifurcated, voted on separately from the town budget, and there are few ideas for saving money that the board hasn’t already tried.

The board hasn’t given up on offering an early retirement for teachers, but so far the prospects that it might save any sizeable amount of money are looking slim.

Members of the board’s finance subcommittee met with Bill Sudol, a retired state Teachers Retirement Fund employee, who analyzed the board’s early retirement incentive offers and reported that they probably wouldn’t save much money.

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The two alternatives floated earlier this Fall were to pay to continue retirees’ medical insurance or a cash offer known as the Ohio Plan, in which the board would help retirees buy additional years of pension eligibility. The aim is to replace teachers at the highest pay grade with younger teachers paid tens of thousands of dollars a year less.

According to subcommittee members Richard Gaines and William Hart, Sudol told them the problem is the incentives could cost almost as much as the savings from the retirements. In some cases, a saving of $30,000 for an individual retirement might be offset by an incentive costing $25,000.

Hart said he questioned whether a savings of just $5,000 per retirement was worth losing some of the most talented, veteran teachers in the district.

This and other difficult budget decisions are approaching a deadline, because the board must approve a 2013-14 budget request by the end of January. BOE Chairman Debbie Leidlein asked the subcommittee to keep trying and report back next month.

Academic Standards Come With Cost

School Supt. Dr. Janet Robinson reported that the state’s new academic standards and teacher evaluation procedures are unfunded mandates that could have expensive budget implications.

The core standards require additional teacher training on addressing dating violence among students, and the new evaluation process will require at least six classroom observations per teacher, she said.

Robinson said at a recent CABE (Connecticut Association of Boards of Education) conference, educators and school board officials wondered where they would get the money for these things.

Funding a New Superintendent Search

In regard to the search for a new superintendent, school district Business Manager Ron Bienkowski said the headhunter firm that conducted the last superintendent search in 2007 estimated a new search would cost between $25,000 and $30,000.

That is much lower than Bienkowski’s original cost estimate of around $80,000, which he admitted was only included in his earlier budget report as a “place holder” until a more accurate estimate was received.

He said one factor, advertising costs, might be substantially less than in 2007, because now it would use more internet advertising, which is cheaper than print ads the 2007 search relied on.

Bruce Kraemer November 26, 2012 at 01:07 PM
Insead of making hard working teachers take an early retirement how about cutting the amount of adminastrators we have by at least 30%. We don't need them!
Maria Sabla November 26, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Those who decided to replace our Superintendent should be REPLACED or FIRED! Shame on this town.5 years is a long time to forget how is to work with a pay check collector SI.
Sam Mihailoff November 26, 2012 at 08:49 PM
You lost me........... "5 years is a long time to forget how is to work with a pay check collector SI" WHAT DOES THIS MEAN???
Matt November 26, 2012 at 10:09 PM
Since you obviously work for the school system or have first hand knowledge that 30% of the administrators are sitting around doing nothing, which administrative positions would you cut?
Maria Sabla November 27, 2012 at 02:34 AM
The previous Superintendent, who was paid a lot of money for being unapproachable and was out of touch of the this community. Dr. Robinson cares about everyone and those who want her out just to blind to see the good things. It will not be easy to find a new one who will put up with this town.We have a reputation among Educators.
Paul Alexander November 27, 2012 at 01:09 PM
"We (The Town of Newtown) have a reputation among Educators." Good. It's time that the professional Educrats enter the real world of performance and fiscal accountability. Newtown is leading the way back to public education sanity. And BTW, the professional Educrats have a reputation in Newtown! As the Next Superintendent, the BOE needs to hire a real world, former C-level executive NOT from the ranks of professional Educrats. The Assistant Supe should be the professional Educrat. The Supe should be a successful business leader.
Paul Alexander November 27, 2012 at 01:18 PM
Ditto for the next First Selectman.
Thomas Crafts November 27, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Get ready for budget season, learn the appropriate response to NO!
Sam Mihailoff November 27, 2012 at 03:55 PM
everyone is entitled to their own opinion
Newtown Resident and Teacher November 27, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Unfortunately, a business executive does not guarantee results either. Consider Cathie Black, former New York City Schools Chancellor.
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com December 03, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Dr Robinson and iour administratorsd has delivered outstanding results with a per pupil spending a rate lower than 90 percent of the towns in CT. Unless the goal is to spend less than any town in the state I we should be thanking DR Robinson and her staff for making lemonade out of lemons.
Paul Alexander December 03, 2012 at 02:45 PM
The problem with that logic is that CT wastefully outspends most every other state, so comparing Newtown to other municipalities in one of the highest spending states is meaningless. Compare Newtown to the national average and then let’s revisit how much praise Dr. Robinson and the school board deserve. It’s like saying, “Hey…the US government spends money like drunken soldiers, but at least we’re not Greece”. Specious at best.
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com December 03, 2012 at 03:22 PM
Paul I always respect your comments, but in this case the arguement that the budget could never be too low does not fly. Like it or not we are in CT and our quality of life is directly tied to the quality of our schools, as are our property values. To simply ignor our location defies common sense.Dr. Robinson should be congratulated for the outstanding results she produces with the funds we provide.
Sam Mihailoff December 03, 2012 at 03:59 PM
the teachers produce the results the values instilled by parents produce the results Dr. Robinson is nothing but a cyst in need of being surgically lanced
Paul Alexander December 03, 2012 at 04:03 PM
When I hear the..."But WE are Newtown/Fairfield County/CONNECTICUT, we’re special"...argument I just want to gag.
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com December 03, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Sam as usually you are so funny.
Veritas vos liberabit December 03, 2012 at 04:26 PM
Rasmussen, Let the Newtown citizens take care of Newtown's education system, so far they have done a superb job (they educated you didn't they?). Does Florida have the Patch? Perhaps you should address problems were you live! JULY 17, 2012 Florida's education funding unfair to poor students, report says Facebook 33 Email Share 44 The Florida Board of Education will continue its discussion on 2013-14 funding during its meeting this morning. A new report from the Education Law Center and Rutgers University offers some insight that board members might want to keep in mind. Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card gives Florida poor marks in all four of the categories used to determine whether states provide adequate funding to account for the added needs of students in poverty. The group ranks Florida: • 40th in funding level (overall level of state and local revenue provided to school districts, comparing each state’s average per-pupil revenue with other states) • 45th for coverage (proportion of school age children in public vs. nonpublic schools) • D for funding distribution (distribution of funding across local districts within a state, relative to student poverty) • F for state effort (state spending vs. per capital gross domestic product) Overall, the report places Florida alongside Missouri and North Carolina as "low-effort, regressive states."
Paul Alexander December 03, 2012 at 04:39 PM
Sully, No one, including me, is arguing that Newtown is doing a poor job educating its students. The argument centers on the cost/benefit of the school budget. Dude, really, you twist everything. It's killing me right now to even respond to your lame attempts at critical thinking. THE argument is...Can Newtown do the same job for less money. Obviously anyone and everyone who is a stakeholder in ever increasing school budgets will say "No". But ever increasing budgets are unsustainable in the fiscal environment we will live in for at least the next five years, probably 10 years. Those who have to fork over the ever increasing tax payments while living in a flat to deceasing real income world say HELL YES! The fat years are over. Time for Newtown schools to do more with less. Everyone else is. And Sully, go bang your head against your desk cuz ; A. It might improve your IQ, and B. It will distract you from my posts which I assure you will keep coming until fiscal sanity returns to Newtown.
Veritas vos liberabit December 03, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Rasmussen - • F for state effort (state spending vs. per capital gross domestic product) Overall, the report places Florida alongside Missouri and North Carolina as "low-effort, regressive states." No COMMENT ?
Paul Alexander December 03, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Jim Sullivan/Sully/McMurphy, The Patch article is titled "Board of Education Preparing for (Newtown) Budget Season". Focus Sully. And quit wasting bandwidth.
Paul Alexander December 03, 2012 at 06:22 PM
THIS is why municipal budgets, and the taxes that fund those budgets, MUST stop rising. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2012-12-02/guest-post-personal-income-and-spending-weigh-economic-recovery-hopes Real (inflation adjusted) personal incomes are FALLING. This is a long term trend that will continue. Municipal governments need to accept the reality of doing the same, or more, with LESS money. That has been the reality for many families and businesses for a few years now. Municipal budgets don’t get a pass from fiscal reality just because they spend other people’s money or because the Superintendent or First Selectman are nice people.

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