Low turnout cancels budget forum; more planned
BRIDGEPORT — Turnout was so low at the first of three forums scheduled on the city school district’s 2018-19 budget plan that officials called it off and plan to try again.
Only two members of the public, School Board Member Joe Sokolovic and about a dozen members of the district’s administrative staff showed up at a forum held Thursday evening at Batalla School.
Because of the light turnout, Schools Superintendent Aresta Johnson pulled the plug on her power point presentation shortly after the 6 p.m. session was to begin and said she will reschedule the session for 6 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 6 at Batalla School, 606 Howard Avenue.
Batalla usually draws the biggest crowd for budget forums. Johnson doesn’t think the lack of an audience was due to parent discouragement but rather lack of a phone blast, Johnson said.
This time parents will be notified by phone of the upcoming forums.
Additional forums are set for noon, Saturday, Feb. 3 at Tisdale School, 250 Hollister Avenue and 6 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 8 at Blackham School, 425 Thorme Street.
The city school board has voted to send a $261.5 million 2018-19 operating budget request to the city, a $16.8 million increase over this year’s budget.
That increase will pay for contractual salary increases, health care costs, rising special education expenses and make up for lost state and federal grants.
The state, which provides three quarters of the district’s operating budget, has a $1.1 million increase for the district penciled into its 2018-19 budget plan.
This year, however, after flat-funding the district, the governor returned to rescind $250,000. Coupled with a $387,593 increase from the city, the district had a net operating budget gain this year of $137,593. The district asked for an additional $11.4 million.
Without the requested funding next year, the district could lose its 20 remaining reading and math coaches, all assistant principals in schools of less than 500 students, six teaching positions and the staff of two that coordinates an army of school volunteers.
Walking distances could also be extended and an attempt may be made to shave two days off the school calendar, something that would require approval from employee unions.