Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Press Release: Facts on the Board of Education Budget Passed

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Letter to the Editor

By Town Councilman Alvin O’Neil
District 3

I am writing to inform the public about the details of the recently passed Board of Education (BOE) budget and the efforts that went into ensuring adequate funding for our education system. I had the opportunity to meet with acting superintendent Heather Borges to discuss the budget and negotiate the necessary funds to support our programs, particularly the Alpha Program.

During our discussions, it was agreed that if additional funding could be secured, the Alpha Program services would remain, though potentially under a different name. The goal is to provide more tailored, individualized services to each child currently in the Alpha Program, along with additional services that the current program does not offer.

I am pleased to announce that with the additional $500,000 I successfully negotiated, most of the teachers’ jobs will be retained. The Board of Education has confirmed that no teachers will lose their jobs, except for those who choose not to fill available vacancies they are qualified for.

The 2024-2025 BOE proposed budget outlines that the Alpha Program requires $430,018 to be fully funded. Initially, the BOE allocated $157,832, leaving a shortfall of $272,186. The additional $500,000 I secured covers this shortfall, allowing the Alpha Program to be fully funded. The remaining $227,814 will be used to save positions such as librarians and math and reading specialists.

The Stratford Town Council, which consists of 5 Democratic members and 5 Republican members, operates under specific guidelines as per the Town Charter:

§ 2.2.7 Council Action:

  • The Council acts only by ordinance or resolution.
  • Appropriations ordinances must be confined to the subject of appropriations.

§ 2.2.8 Ordinances:

  • Ordinances require an affirmative vote of six Council Members for passage.
  • In the event of a 5-5 tie, the Mayor casts the deciding vote.

The proposed operating budget from the Mayor’s Office included:

  • Board of Ed: $127,002,725
  • ECS Funding: $5,121,381
  • Nonlapsing Funds: $2,000,000
  • Total: $134,124,106 (4.79% increase)

My fellow Democrats proposed amendments to increase BOE funding, which were as follows:

First Amendment:

  • Board of Ed: $130,002,725
  • ECS Funding: $5,121,381
  • Nonlapsing Funds: $2,000,000
  • Total: $137,124,106 (7.13% increase)

Second Amendment:

  • Board of Ed: $128,002,725
  • ECS Funding: $5,121,381
  • Nonlapsing Funds: $2,000,000
  • Total: $135,124,106 (5.57% increase)

However, these proposals were illegal as they intended to draw from the Town’s General Unreserve Fund Balance, which is prohibited by ordinance. The ordinance states that any use of these funds must ensure the balance remains greater than 10% of the operating budget for the ensuing year. Currently, the general unreserved fund balance is $19,000,000, which does not meet the required $26,001,437.

Therefore, my negotiation resulted in the following budget:

  • Board of Ed: $127,502,725
  • ECS Funding: $5,121,381
  • Nonlapsing Funds: $2,000,000
  • Total: $134,624,106 (5.17% increase)

This budget secures the necessary funding without violating legal restrictions and allows the BOE the flexibility to allocate funds as needed.

In a scenario of a 5-5 split council vote, the Mayor would have broken the tie, likely voting along party lines. Since the Democratic proposal was illegal, it could not have been a viable option.

The negotiated budget provides more for the BOE than the Mayor’s initial proposal while adhering to legal requirements.

It is important to note that the Town Council provides a lump sum to the BOE, and the elected BOE members have the authority to allocate these funds. Therefore, any decisions regarding program cuts or changes lie with the BOE, not the Town Council.

To the educators expressing concerns, I urge you to direct your inquiries and feedback to the BOE members responsible for budget allocations. I hope this information clarifies the process and the efforts made to secure the necessary funding for our education system.

Democratic Councilman Alvin O’Neal, District 3

Ref, Ordinance 14-41 Council Minutes November 7, 2007

1 COMMENT

  1. Thank you, Councilman O’Neal, for that detailed explanation of school budgeting and your efforts to compensate for sadly inadequate financial support of our schools in the recently passed 2025 town budget.
    After citizens and students have been demonstrating and speaking out in droves multiple times, requesting full 7% support requested by our pro tem superintendent, Heather Borges, just to maintain status quo, the budget came in well below that. No amount of “patching up”can compensate for what has been lost. Why would a revered alternative program, like the Alpha, which has been in effect for 10+ years, be renamed unless to restructure it in a less effective way? Why would teachers choose to retire rather continue in a system that does not support them?

    Although the full damage done will not be completely evident until the new school year is underway because there seem to be a number of indefinites, the BIG QUESTION is, “How can we avoid ANOTHER REPEAT of inadequate financial support of our schools which has happened repeatedly for years?
    What changes in budgeting will be planned to support ALL of our young people with an education that will enable them to have success in life? How will Stratford attract top-notch Educators rather than lose good people to other communities where Educators are respected and supported?”

    “Will Stratford continue on this path of degrading our schools so that potential homeowners will look elsewhere rather than move to a community with substandard schools?”

    We can only ask that our legislators plan for the future by budgeting to support our students and show respect for our teachers by fully supporting our schools.

    A message from a former student of Stratford schools:

    https://stratfordcrier.com/letters-to-the-editor-24-2/

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