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Superintendent's Budget Includes 6.5% Increase for District

In her proposed estimate of expenditures for the 2013/2014 budget season, Superintendent Janet Robinson requested increases in security, building and site maintenance, and other areas.

 

Eight additional full-time security guards for schools are part of the budget plan the Newtown school district hopes to put forward for the 2013-2014 season. But they aren't the only improvement school officials are hoping to make.

Superintendent Janet Robinson put forth a plan Tuesday evening for districtwide increases in fields she says are critical to bringing the district up to par. It adds up to a 6.54% budget increase. But it's a figure that comes in an unprecedented time of uncertainty, including uncertainty about where Sandy Hook students will be attending school, what will become of the school building itself and what funds will be available.

Robinson said she doesn't know what will happen to funds that have been donated from across the world since the December 14 school shooting that took the lives of 20 children and six adults.

"I don't have any idea," she said. "I don't know how much of it could be spent for security or mental health professionals, or other kinds of things that could benefit the students."

"Survival Numbers"

"Our role is to educate," said Robinson at the beginning of her presentation. "That means educating ourselves, too."

The presentation incorporated existing Board of Education budget goals, like the desire for a full-day kindergarten, which has been on the table for the past three budget cycles. Other budget goals include professional development, Common Core State Standards and a technology budget Robinson said has gone off-cycle.

Robinson's projection included up to a 12% increase in health insurance, increases in energy costs -- especially oil -- and increases in general wages for staff. Building and site maintenance projections, which had been on the decline in previous years, increased sharply in Robinson's budget to $1,074,000.

Overall, Robinson's proposed 6.54% increase is significant higher than previous years -- like the 1.16% increase in the 2011/2012 budget or the 0.57% increase in 2012/2013. But Robinson says it's necessary, calling the increase "survival numbers" -- unlike previous years.

"We put in the bare minimum," she told Patch. "There are many areas I would put more in. I would put more guidance counselors in. So yes, we scaled back, but it still came over 6%. It's just that we've gone so many years with deprivation."

A Hope for Expanded Security Measures

The eight security guards are one part of an increase in post-12/14 security that includes real-time video surveillance, which would allow police to monitor schools from police headquarters of from cars. The board voted Tuesday to change school policy to allow the surveillance system. Current policy only allowed surveillance in the case of a justifiable reason.

"When you're looking at the entrance, the justifiable reason becomes apparent only after the event," said Board of Education member Richard Gaines.

During public comments, three community members spoke -- occasionally emotionally -- about the desire to have armed guards. 

"We have police officers at malls, at movie theaters and other places," said Newtown resident John Bellow. "But for our most precious things, our young children, we have no security. I know there's talk about guns ... but the only way to stop a bad person with a gun is a good person with a gun ... This can never happen again."

The Board of Education can only request that the police department provide armed officers for schools, and the request must go before the Board of Selectmen, Robinson told Patch. School officers are paid out of the police department's budget.

Patch will bring you more updates and coverage from this and other Newtown Board of Education news in the coming days.

yoda January 26, 2013 at 01:34 PM
MB, The system never calls DCF, it would make the system look bad, although Parents can without leaving your name! You would have to prove it, although people are coming forward and stating they saw the signs! I want to see all the evaluations this kid has had, I'm sure his mother has them in the house! Those evaluations would be handed to the school and therefor the system is aware! Documentation from our school system can be falsified, smudged, lost ,rewritten I would never base fact on central office, hmmmmm remember that state was here to investigate special ed, the only reason they left was because the parents settled each case, those children were outplaced, Finally!! MB, completely agree with you about REED, that school has to be the worst in our system for years! A friend of ours, son was having seizures in that school and no one ever told the parent, it was only when the parent went in to view the child social skills, she saw him have a full blown seizure!!! Reed told the mother, “OH one of teachers saw something, we just thought he was overstimulated” WHAT?? My point is a lot is ignored in our system unless you see it with your own eyes!!!!!
Paul Alexander January 26, 2013 at 06:14 PM
Sully, Your naiveté is amusing. Say Hi to the Easter Bunny for me. Tina did not ADD dual Swiss citizenship to her US citizenship...she RENOUONCED her US citizenship in favor of Swiss citizenship. It’s the tax avoidance choice of the uber wealthy...just like Friend of Bill and Hillary, Denise Rich.
Veritas vos liberabit January 26, 2013 at 07:36 PM
Paul Alexander 4:45 pm on Friday, March 9, 2012 Sully, The S&P 500 is charting a rising wedge on declining volume with MACD rolling over. That combo is a red flag. Your risk tolerance is much greater than mine or my clients. -- who's naive? People who got out as stocks plummeted in 2008 and early 2009 have already missed a remarkable rally. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index has soared 120 percent since March 2009, passing the 1,500 milestone. This year alone, the main indexes are up 5 percent.
onceuponanewtown January 29, 2013 at 12:49 AM
6.5% + 1.9% = 8.4% Increase = YIKES!
G January 29, 2013 at 01:41 AM
onceupon... It's apples and oranges - you can't do the math that way. It's still not good! But they are "proposed" increases over 2 separate parts of the budget.
Mr D. January 29, 2013 at 02:31 AM
It's more like a combined 5%. About 2/3 of the budget (schools) going up 6.5%, the other 1/3 going up 1.9. Can't remember what percentage of the town budget the schools take.
Marilyn January 29, 2013 at 01:41 PM
"The school board and superintendent should treat each other with respect at all times. The actions of the school board and superintendent should provide the public with confidence that the district is being run professionally and in a manner that is consistent with the students' educational needs and the community's desires and aspirations." Clearly this is not happening in Newtown!! Latest News Times headline..."Newtown board leader scolds superintendent!" Get it together people. You are making decisions for all of the children in the Newtown School System....pathetic!
carlistojoe January 29, 2013 at 06:24 PM
How do we get rid of Leidlein? She is a disgrace.
GRC January 29, 2013 at 11:28 PM
"Each year, Brookfield, Danbury, New Milford, Monroe, Bethel, Redding, etc. increase their budget from 3%-7%. " You forgot Southbury - they PROPOSED a 0% increase which was approved on the first vote.
recourses January 30, 2013 at 12:00 AM
Finally, someone with some sense! She is really an embarrassment to the school board and this community. I believe it's time for her to be held accountable for her ethics violations prior to 12/14. She is throwing a few too many stones from a thin glass house.
recourses January 30, 2013 at 02:10 AM
Comparing Newtown to Southbury is not exactly realistic. They are two very different counties. Newtown is in the top 10 rankings usually and Region 15 barely makes the top 40. Plus Newtown has over 1,000 more students. If you think we should be comparing our school spending to Southbury's spending, then maybe we should look at the house prices as well!
onceuponanewtown January 30, 2013 at 11:34 AM
I'm glad we have a BOE that asks questions and verifies; isn't that what they are supposed to do?
Marilyn January 30, 2013 at 07:12 PM
Certainly good to have a board that asks questions....however, how did The News Times get word that there was an email sent by the chair to the superintendent and the board, therefore prompting them to request it through FOI? Hmmmm...internal leak? I am all for making adjustments for SHES...but they are trying to get the CMT's changed for the district? Why upend the other schools when there is no need to do that. The BOE chair needs to act like a professional. She's acting like a child!
Lisa Berger January 30, 2013 at 08:10 PM
"Be nice to each other. It's really all that matters" – Dawn Hochsprung.
SusanR January 30, 2013 at 08:14 PM
I didn't think the line between "asking questions and verifying" and "micromanaging and accusing" was that fine. It seems like this Board has been hijacked by a chair with an agenda. Whatever that agenda is, maybe it's getting rid of Dr. Robinson, who knows. But we should be embarrassed that this "scolding" article is a headline in the Danbury paper. This board is seems to be slipping away from what the parents and community want while they are on their mission to fire Robinson. Let's get this together and work as a community.
GRC January 31, 2013 at 12:51 AM
Anybody seen the moving "Coming to America"? Telegraph Lady: You actually want to send this? Semmi: Why? What is wrong? Read it to me. Telegraph Lady: To His Majesty, King Jaffe Joffer, The Royal Palace, Zamunda. Sire, Akeem and I have depleted our funds. Kindly send 300, 000 American dollars immediately, as we are in dire straits. Your humble servant, Semmi. [mispronounces "Semmi"] Semmi: Semmi [corrects her] Telegraph Lady: Semmi [pronounces it correctly] Semmi: Should I make it 400,000? Telegraph Lady: You think that'd be enough? Semmi: You are right. 500,000. Telegraph Lady: As long as you're asking, why not go for a cool million? Semmi: You do not think that would be too much? Telegraph Lady: Naah.
Les January 31, 2013 at 02:15 AM
Ms. Leidlein asks all the right questions and gets her facts straight. She does not simply agree with JR the way the last two Chairs did. Thankfully, the Board did not renew the contract of a Superintendent who has performed so poorly and lost the trust of so many.
Bruce Kraemer January 31, 2013 at 01:12 PM
It's very sad that many of our town leaders are using this tragedy to advance their own agenda Instead of concentrating on making Newtown a better and affordable place to live.
Paul Alexander January 31, 2013 at 07:42 PM
"Pimps"...the lot of them! Minus the 1971 460 big block Lincoln Continental and the purple crushed velvet hat with leopard bandana wrap of course...but modern day, political pimps ALL of them. No offense to proper pimps intended.
Paul Alexander January 31, 2013 at 09:25 PM
This is what happens when State and municipal spending and state and municipal taxes are out of control...people and businesses LEAVE for states where they get to keep more of their money. http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/wall_st_flees_ny_for_tax_free_fla_Q6e4qSDMUethpylfznC4tO
Patricia Sabato February 01, 2013 at 03:04 PM
Release all of the records, investigation documents and all pertinent information before anyone gets another dime or any pen hits the paper to sign anything. Who is protecting who and what? Way too many unanswered questions........
carlistojoe February 01, 2013 at 03:37 PM
Les, Leidlein has had an agenda since the day she took office. And that agenda has been to get Dr. Robinson. With all that JR and the town have been thru the last two months, it is a disgrace that all Leidlein wants to do is throw Janet under the bus. Yes shame on Leidlein.
SusanR February 01, 2013 at 09:48 PM
I agree. I don't understand why the anger at Robinson. She has been outstanding before and after 12/14. She's done some amazing things for this school district being held to minimal budget increases. I mean, Newtown is one of the last districts in this area without full day Kindergarten! I am worried that the buzz about how unreasonable this board chair has been has passed quickly to other districts and if Robinson is pushed out, how many qualified superintendents who care about this district like Robinson does will be jumping at this job? Les and Liedlein and whomever keeps commenting on Robinson's performance, what are they talking about? It's certainly not school ratings, test scores (which have gone up in Robinson's tenure) and student/teacher/administrator happiness (the schools love her). Is this hatred all from the busing decision? I am disappointed about the overall thread of comments on here. They run from nonsensical to unfounded personal attacks. The people in this town need to take a step back away from animosity and find some humanity towards each other. This town needs to show their resilience to the outside world, not its silly bantering. We are Newtown! If we want our children to recover from this, we need to set the example that we can more prudent and vigilant without being so destructive towards each other
Emma February 02, 2013 at 04:55 PM
Recourses, "Newtown is in the top 10 rankings and Region 15 barely makes the top 30". Can you site the source of your info? I have read Southbury is in the top 100 school districts in the country (I do not remember where I read that).
Thomas Crafts February 02, 2013 at 05:02 PM
Robinson is out, we chose not to renew her contract. (that's what that means)
Emma February 02, 2013 at 05:12 PM
Since 2009, enrollment is down by almost 500 students (according to proposed 2013-2014). This would warrant a reduction in teaching staff. I agree with 110% the district should be laying off effective teachers and keeping poor performing ones. However, it seems to me it is a union issue, not budget, b/c the problem would still exist even if we had unlimited funding. Unless you are suggesting we not make reductions as enrollment decreases and keep and pay poor performers like they do in NYC.
Paul Alexander February 03, 2013 at 06:03 PM
The Superintendent should be relieved for the simple reason that she is a professional educator running a $70MM+ business. And there is NOTHING in the CV of ANY professional educator that qualifies them to successfully run a $70MM+ business with complicated labor and budget issues. Hiring another professional educator is not a recipe for success and I measure success as a combination of exceptional student performance at a reasonable cost with low labor volatility. The Superintendent position should be filled by a career business person with C-level experience and a track record of delivering exceptional performance at a reasonable cost with low labor volatility. The Assistant Superintendent position should be filled by a professional educator who would administer the school system on a day to day basis. That team of business leader and professional educator is the best plan.
Thomas Crafts February 03, 2013 at 09:10 PM
Paul, she's outa here, they chose not to renew her contract, ie, she's fired. You are right about her replacement but it'll never happen. You need to talk mom into Florida, because when you factor in taxes and gun laws this is a very inhospitable environment.
Paul Alexander February 04, 2013 at 02:02 PM
Ha! I haven't made the transition from "Fight" to "Flight" yet... I still believe that Connecticut will eventually "see the light"...The State and its residents will have their epiphany one way or the other...voluntarily, or forced upon them as a result of the very ugly fiscal circumstances that are about to erupt once the State’s tax base falls below critical support levels.
homeward bound February 26, 2013 at 01:47 PM
I'm not saying that I'm for or against your idea, but check out what happened when Bloomberg tried this. Google Cathie Black and read the Wiki. She lasted about 90 days. CEOs are used to giving marching orders. Speaking to a roomful of screaming parents is hard for a CEO to take.

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