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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

School budget talks under way in Wallingford

As published in the Record Journal Tuesday November 9, 2010

By Jaclyn Hirsch
Record-Journal staff  
(203) 317-2234

WALLINGFORD — The first of many discussions about next school year’s budget started Monday night during the Board of Education Operations Committee’s meeting.

“There’s a lot on our plate. I’m not going to deny that fact,” School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo said.

The board invited Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. and Patrice McCarthy, deputy director and general counsel for the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, to talk about budget projections and get an idea of what next fiscal year could look like for the district.

Dickinson and McCarthy had little good news to report, but offered advice on how to look for money in this tough economic climate.

Dickinson said unless the state or federal government pumps money into the economy, town officials are not expecting any new money or increase in existing revenues.

About 85 percent of the town’s money comes from local taxpayers, which surprised many board members.

“We are tremendously dependent on what’s happening to the local tax base,” board member Jay Cei said. “I never realized it was that concentrated in local sources.

”McCarthy urged Board of Education members and educators at Monday’s meeting to continue pushing for state money from the legislature.

“The advocacy role is critical,” she said. “Advocacy does matter.”

She said the government is moving to more competitive grants with strings attached, which are more difficult for smaller school districts to win because of the manpower and time it takes to apply for grants.

“That’s sort of something that every community has to weigh,” she said.

Menzo said administrators still plan to hold onto the $1.2 million in federal money earmarked for job saving or creation, which Dickinson applauded. The money must be used by September 2012.

Menzo said he and his staff have started to look at budget numbers and are in the beginning stages of the conversation. He plans to meet parents in an open forum Wednesday night at Sheehan High School, and see teachers and principals at other schools next week to continue the budget conversation.

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