Over the objections of the superintendent and board leadership, the Board of Education voted against rescinding an earlier decision to the .
The transfer, which was , moves approximately $540,000 from the New London Public Schools budget to the municipal budget. The Board of Education agreed with the suggestion in a 5-2 vote on April 26. The vote on Thursday to rescind the earlier decision failed 2-4 along the same lines, with one board member absent.
Let Patch save you time. Get great local stories like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone every day with our free newsletter. Simple, fast sign-up here.
Councilor and administrator reaction
Several people, including three city councilors and a school administrator, spoke about the proposal during the public comment section. City Council President Michael Passero said he considered that Finance Director Jeff Smith has successfully overseen consolidations of city and school finances. He said the transfer intends to free the equivalent amount, which will still be included in the school budget, to retain teachers and programs. Passero said the city has been trying to accomplish such a consolidation for several years.
“The school administration, unfortunately, has done nothing but stonewall,” he said.
City Councilors John Maynard and Anthony Nolan said they were opposed to the transfer. Maynard said he supported it initially, but is now uncertain that the Finance Department would be able to handle the additional responsibility. Nolan said he thinks the transfer is being rushed.
“We don’t know all the answers on what it’s going to cost, short-term or long-term,” he said.
Lou Allen, director of the , said there was a consensus decision by the administrators’ union in favor of rescinding the earlier vote.
“There’s just a lot of unanswered questions,” said Allen.
The Board of Education Finance Committee . The vote followed a discussion raising concerns that the transfer would take away the board’s financial oversight and that the district might not realize significant cost savings due to the need to establish a common software system. An issue raised on Thursday was the concern that the city could fire some school employees in the business office as a result of the transfer.
Superintendent Nicholas Fischer said there was some concern over the capacity of the city’s software to handle school finances. He said the business office has assumed oversight of grant funds at the city’s request. President Bill Morse said the board could also be subject to legal ramifications in the event of a consolidation.
“I am very nervous and worried, perhaps selfishly but also for the sake of the board, that we are taking a hell of a leap of faith,” he said.
Board members Barbara Major and Delanna Muse said they researched other school districts that had consolidated city and school finances. Muse said they reported that they had to work out issues but that they realized savings in the long term. Major said the money available in the short term will also help to save jobs.
“Mostly what I heard was that they wished they had done it years ago,” said Major.
Morse motioned to table the item until the board’s next meeting on June 7, but was the only member in favor. Morse and Vice President Elizabeth Garcia-Gonzalez were in favor of rescinding the earlier vote, while Secretary Jason Catala and board members Margaret Curtin, Major, and Muse were opposed. Board member Sylvia Potter was absent.
The City Council has of the 2013 fiscal year budget, which includes the business office transfer as well as a . The council is scheduled to meet on Tuesday to take a third and final vote on the budget’s appropriation ordinances prior to a May 31 deadline.