Beginning Latin, custodial position included in reductions
After a heated three-hour meeting Tuesday night, the Region 9 Board of Education proposed a revised 2018-19 school budget of $24,240,493.
This is a reduction of $242,961 from the budget that was rejected by Redding voters at the May 8 budget referendum.
The previously proposed Region 9 operating budget was $24,483,453.
The revised budget passed by a vote of 5-3. Board members Vance Hancock, Maureen Williams, Chris Hocker, Gwen Denny, and Chairman Mike D’Agostino were in favor, while Paul Coppinger, Todd Johnston and Cheryl Graziano were opposed.
The Region 9 budget is shared between Redding and Easton. Redding’s increase now amounts to 5.27%, while Easton has a decrease of 1.98%.
Redding has a larger contribution to the Region 9 budget than Easton due to an enrollment shift of 30 students.
The variance from the current year’s budget is $451,355, which amounts to a 1.9% increase.
The Region 9 proposed budget passed at Easton’s May 8 budget referendum.
The Region 9 Board of Education will submit its revised budget to the Redding Board of Finance for its review. Town officials are working with various boards to finalize the new number and set a new referendum date, which is yet to be announced.
Several residents were greatly disappointed about the proposed cut of two sections from Barlow’s Latin program, which would affect 52 students. Currently, three sections of Latin are taught at the high school.
Reducing the number of classes from three to one would save $15,266.
Easton lower schools do not have a Latin program, but Redding’s lower schools do.
“As the father of a student who has spent three years studying Latin at the middle school, I am sorely disappointed that he and his classmates may not have the opportunity to continue their studies at Barlow,” said Redding resident Jeff Fligelman. “I’m also troubled by the fact that we can find the money for kids to play ball or allow parent boosters to help defray the costs, but for the kids who want to go into Latin at Barlow, there is no class for them. Clearly, we are not finding ways to do the same with less. We’re just doing less. I also wonder if this is what those who voted against the Region 9 budget were looking forward to.”
Removal of custodial position
There was also a cut to the mid-shift custodial position, which cut about $49,000 from the budget.
“A giant red flag went up when I saw this,” said D’Agostino, adding he was worried this might result in staff taking on multiple jobs. “I’m concerned when we run that so lean, and [that] we are going to have maintenance guys doing cafeteria cleanup when they might need to be doing maintenance.”
Walter Czudak, director of buildings and grounds, said that during the day, the maintenance staff would be doing custodial work and the night shift would be picking up some work as well.
“That being said, we are trying to do everything we can to protect the programs for the kids,” Czudak said.
Debate over School resource officer
The revised Region 9 budget still includes the addition of a school resource officer (SRO).
In March, after many complaints from parents in response to the school shooting in Florida that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Region 9 approved the addition of an SRO to the budget — at a cost of $87,085.
However, at Tuesday’s meeting, Coppinger said now would be a good time to reconsider that decision.
“If somebody wants to do harm, they are going to do harm,” he said. “I know that people came out and wanted this, but we voted on it but the budget failed. So I’m in favor of removing the SRO. Financially speaking, we don’t have that person on the table right now. I think that it’s not going to do the work that we want it to do.”
However, the cost of an SRO currently remains in the revised budget proposal.
Other cuts, however, that were made to the budget include reducing the replacement of classroom equipment ($15,000), eliminating an academic center paraprofessional (about $32,000), and reducing two summer days for all counselors, a psychologist and social workers (about $7,500).
Barlow Principal Gina Pin said the revised budget is based on a “collaborative effort.”
“The entire department leadership team all came to the table,” she said. “We reminded ourselves about what was important and about what we needed to protect.”