School board trims spending hike in approving $111.5M budget
The Board of Education has approved a $111,471,756 operating budget for 2015-16, an increase of 2.08 percent over current spending.
The amount approved Wednesday night is less than the $113,294,493 budget proposed for the next fiscal year by Superintendent of Schools Elliot Landon last month. That budget had a 3.75 increase over the current $109.2 million budget.
"Everyone worked hard to hone the budget and it was really nickeled and dimed this year," said board Chairman Michael Gordon.
--It's a lean budget and that's nice," he added. "But it's one that's academically spectacular."
The board approved keeping monitors on school buses -- which had been considered for elimination -- but voted down a proposal to bundle some projects initially included in the operating budget and transferring them to the school district's capital budget. That was a proposal made by Landon last week in an effort to trim the budget by about $390,000.
Board member Elaine Whitney said she was opposed to that proposal. Board members agreed, especially after being told that each of the bundled capital items would have to be brought before the Board of Finance separately for approval.
"I agree with Elaine," said Sue Calger, PTA Council co-president. "I think it's a travesty to move it out and then have no control over it," she added. "Keep it in the operating budget." Other board members agreed.
Landon said after hearing the concerns, he agreed it would be best to keep the items in the operating budget. If not, they would be "subject to the whims of the Board of Finance," Landon said.
He also said the school district is already requesting some "vital approvals" from the finance board next Monday, including funding for a mass communication system and other security projects.
The vote was 4-1 not to transfer to items to the capital budget. Only Jeannie Smith wanted to make the change. She had called the proposal "a creative and critical way of managing funds in a new way."
The board also approved keeping the school bus monitors, at least for the time being. Eliminating the bus monitors was one of nine recommendations made by the National Executive Service Corps, a consulting firm that recently completed a productivity and efficiency sturdy for the school system.
The death of Holly Finley, an 8-year-old girl killed by a school bus she was exiting in December 1991 prompted school officials to assign monitors on all school buses. But over the years the number of monitors has declined and now only 24 of the school district's 47 bus runs have them.