The Greenwich Board of Education will convene on Tuesday, Nov. 27 at Cos Cob School to begin the vetting of the district's proposed 2013-14 budget, which was initially presented Nov. 8 by Superintendent Dr. William McKersie.
Citing academic excellence and fiscal efficiency as its dual drivers, McKersie's inaugural budget as Greenwich's school chief calls for a proposed year-over-year increase of 2.7% at $143.2 million.
At the time of the presentation, the Board of Estimate and Taxation had not yet agreed upon their 2013 budget guidelines. With the passing of such guidelines last week calling for a 2% increase over the current fiscal year, the superintendent's proposed budget exceeds the recommended parameters. Will the education board look to change the proposed budget to stay within the newly approved guidelines or will the school board try to advocate for the Super's original request?
What will start on Tuesday evening is a public discussion by the school board over what to cut, where and by how much. With a large portion of the district's operating budget tied to compensation, they will need to discuss and determine if the differential will result in a such ramifications as reduction of programs, less teachers or larger class sizes. In fact, at least one board member has mentioned, more than once, looking at the possibility of closing an elementary school.
Board Chair Leslie Moriarty did not respond to requests for comment.
In the last negotiation with the teachers’ union, there were considerable savings achieved in benefits expenses, which are included in the town’s overall budget but not in the BoE budget. The benefit savings has been spoken about at Board of Education meetings, however, it is unclear whether the district will get consideration for its contribution to overall town savings.
On the capital side, the proposed $10 million budget calls for approximately $2 million more in spending than what was contemplated by the BET guidelines. As such, the school board will most likely need to determine a prioritization in its spending. To be determined will be projects which may need to be deferred or eliminated if the district is asked to come in at the lower level.
Also likely to receive bandwidth under this tighter budget scenario is the desire by the BET to combine Human Resource services between the town and the district. Despite attempts to move in such direction in the past, the BoE has not endorsed this consolidation.
What's The Price Tag Of Academic Excellence?
During his budget presentation last month, McKersie explained, “We are going to work with the BET” on the differences in approach and requests. Overall, the new superintendent characterized his first budget as “fiscally responsible with targeted investments for academic excellence and growth.”