Superintendent of Schools Karen Baldwin presented her first budget, a lean but comprehensive proposal, at Tuesday night's Suffield Board of Education meeting.
Baldwin's proposed 2012-13 school budget calls for an increase of slightly less than 2 pecent, about $600,000, of the town's education budget. That overall budget is valued at approximately $31 million.
Suffield Board of Education Chairwoman Sue Porcello was pleased with Baldwin’s work and the budget proposal.
“I think she did a great job,” Porcello said. “She looked at the whole thing in the context of the strategic planning we are doing and came up with as close to a zero budget as possible.”
“It took the hard work from a lot of people,” Baldwin saif. “We tried to balance the economic realities of our time while meeting our educational priorities.”
Handicapped by fiscal requirements of salary increases and rising health insurance costs, the superintendent located cuts through “finding and eliminating inefficiencies without compromising the quality of our educational environment.” The salary increases accounted for approximately $200,000 of the planned increase, with rising insurance costs resulting in another $400,000.
Baldwin is proposing combing two administrative positions, the elimination of a bus route and a second-grade teaching position, changes in non-certified positions as well as a more centralized purchasing program for textbooks and educational supplies.
With the combination of the two administrative positions, Suffield can not only save money but also consolidate the school and special services curriculum.
“I recommended to the board that we combine the two positions into one senior, non-union position to oversee curriculum and special services,” Baldwin noted. “This should enable us to focus on the needs of all kids.”
The board of education has been embroiled in an extensive analysis of the system-wide services for its special needs students. Suffield has hired consultants to review issues brought to light by a concerned group of parents. The reports from these consultants, both from the state and from private firm Blum Shapiro, have been considered in the formation of the new budget and restructuring of the administration, according to Porcello.
Baldwin credited the school principals for their work starting their budgets from zero rather than from last year’s benchmarks. Suffield’s educational platform needed revamping to meet the new state standards in testing and graduation required for the upcoming year.
The proposed budget will be reviewed by the education board’s budget committee and presented to the entire board at its next meeting on March 6. The entire board will then vote on the budget at its March 20 session.
The education budget is a portion of the entire town budget. It needs to be approved by the Suffield Board of Finance and the education budget have its overall, bottom-line figure raised or lowered by that board, although line items may not be changed individually. The town budget will then be voted on by town residents in the spring.