Parents, residents, and employees of encouraged the Board of Education to fight for additional funding to retain services and personnel in the coming school year.
Over 20 people spoke Thursday at a public hearing on the 2012-2013 budget. The school budget has been flat-funded for several years at about $38.8 million. The district has said a 10 percent increase is needed to retain services as they currently stand and asked administrators in each school to prepare a budget with 10 percent cuts. At a special meeting on March 1, the board took the preliminary stance that it will request a six percent budget increase from the City Council.
“There will be no reduction in personnel at six percent,” said President Bill Morse. “However, on the flip side, six percent leaves no room for new initiatives.”
Those attending the hearing warned that services beneficial to students will be lost if the City Council does not grant the additional funding.
Jody Barthel, a Schoolwide Enrichment Model Initiative teacher in the district’s elementary schools, introduced several students and volunteers with the SEMI program. Geoff Kaufman said he has done a music program with SEMI students.
“From my point of view, it was a very special experience to work with these young people, and I would encourage you in any way to support this program,” said Kaufman.
Students spoke about the projects that have been done in the SEMI program, including the purchase of land in Costa Rica to grow trees and offset the district’s carbon emissions.
“These are programs that have developed in New London over many years…I think it’s important to building on everything we have, especially with students like this,” said Barthel.
Maureen Brigham said New London has named literacy as a priority and has made progress in improving it, but worried that this could be halted if the schools have to make cuts. Nerissa Burdick, who has two children involved in SEMI, said she was afraid cuts would affect student interests.
“If you cut these programs, these children will be stuck with academics to the point that they will become bored, they don’t want to be in school anymore,” she said.
Burdick said she also worried that librarian positions would be vulnerable if cuts have to be made and said this would be detrimental to literacy efforts. Kathryn Collins, a library technician at , said staff like her provide essential services and are needed as the and become magnet schools.
“We have to be able to provide the educational services that go along with these beautiful buildings,” she said.
Collins’ husband, David Collins, said cuts to the school budget will reduce the quality of the students’ education.
“Give it your best fight,” he said. “Do not accept—nay, do not tolerate—anything less than six percent.”
The Board of Education will hold a special meeting on 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the to finalize the budget. It must submit a budget proposal to the City Council by March 15.