As published in the Record Journal, Friday April 13, 2012
By Russell Blair
WALLINGFORD — School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo defended the inclusion of lacrosse in the 2012-13 school budget during a Board of Education budget workshop before the Town Council Thursday.
The school board received $614,000 less than what it had requested in Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr.’s budget proposal, but when it comes to possible cuts, the board has remained firm in its commitment to lacrosse. Republican Town Councilor Craig Fishbein was critical of adding the sport at the two high schools, at the expense of other items, in tough economic times. “When you get less than you ask for, and you promise that you’re adding lacrosse ... I have a problem,” he said. “The economy stinks. I think sometimes people don’t realize that.”
But Menzo said Wallingford Youth Lacrosse, the town’s youth club program, has shown that a high school program for both girls and boys would be sustainable. Members of the group were in the audience Thursday.
“I’m personally committed to lacrosse,” Menzo said. “They followed the process appropriately. We have a responsible to teach at all levels, some of the best lessons learned outside of the classroom.”
Adding junior varsity lacrosse for boys and girls at Lyman Hall and Sheehan would cost $81,058 in the first year. The second-year cost is expected to be $66,932.
Lyman Hall and Sheehan are the only schools in the Southern Connecticut Conference without lacrosse teams. An estimated140 students would be involved town wide.
Menzo said that the inclusion of lacrosse was not at the expense of staff jobs. The budget does call for the reduction of 11 teaching positions, but those jobs are being cut due to declining enrollment, he said.
Board of Education Chairwoman Roxane McKay, a Republican, said the school board supports the addition of the sport.
“All nine board members support this program,” she said. “There’s a lot of ways that people get educated. This is a component of education.”
McKay said the district is losing local students to private schools that have lacrosse programs.
Earlier Thursday, councilors expressed concern over the cafeteria budget, which projects a deficit of more than $200,000 being covered by a fund balance. The cafeterias are self-sustaining, but may require a subsidy from the school board beginning in the 2013-14 school year. Republican Vincent Cervoni asked Food Service Director Sharlene Wong to explain a trend of deficits in the cafeteria budget.
“Since 2008, we’ve had a downturn in the economy. We’ve had difficult times in terms of balancing revenues and expenditures,” Wong said, adding that state and federal mandates limit what foods can be sold, hurting a la carte sales. After a number of budget workshops, the school board sent Dickinson a proposed budget of $90,188,048, an increase of 3.91 percent, or $3.4 million. Dickinson countered with $89,573,916, a 3.2 percent increase representing $2.8 million in additional funding.
The council will continue budget workshops next week.