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Proposed School Budget Provokes Little Reaction From Officials, Public

The first Board of Education meeting on a proposed $44.87 million budget for the 2013-14 school year brought out no members of the public, a change from previous years.

Perhaps one way to judge Superintendent Jerome Belair’s tenure in Waterford is by the attendance at Board of Education budget meetings.

In 2011, after just one month on the job, Belair proposed a $42.99 million budget for the 2011-12 school year, a 3 percent increase from the year before, that cut more than 20 positions in the district and eliminated a variety of programs. Hundreds of residents came to budget meetings to voice their disappointment with the cuts and the budget itself.

In 2012, Belair proposed a $44.2 million budget for the 2012-13 school year, another 3 percent increase. Many elected officials went to Board of Education’s budget meetings, although almost no members of the public attended. While the complaints were far less, the group did successfully lobby to bring back freshmen sports.

On Thursday, Belair proposed a $44.87 million budget for the 2013-14 school year, a 1.5 percent increase from this year, at a Board of Education meeting that was open to the public. Yet only a sprinkle of elected officials attended, and with the exception of one former elected official, no one from the public went. And there were no outright complaints.

“We are staying the course,” Belair said. “We are on a trajection to do great things in this school district.”

The meeting provided little news. Belair and his staff explained his $44.87 million proposal (which is fully detailed here). The Board of Education asked informational questions throughout the meeting and some additional informational questions were asked by elected officials at the end of the meeting, but there were no outright complaints.

The Board of Education will hold its next budget workshop on January 17th. Then, on January 24th, the board will take final action on the budget and submit it to the Board of Finance for approval.

John Sheehan January 11, 2013 at 03:17 PM
In fairness to both the BOE and the elected officials attending the meeting, it was the first time they were able to look at the budget and there was no time to study it to be able to form any detailed questions. There is a reason that the BOF likes to get budget backup material a month ahead of the meetings - it provides time to read, study, research, and then formulate questions to insure that the budget presented is the best possible for the particular time. Without that study time, there is no ability to formulate detailed questions about a budget. These workshops are a good first step and, of course, since the administration has built the budget, they are familar with it and able to make a facile presentation that makes the budget look like the best and only solution. This is just the first step in the process. Although the budget appears to be satisfactory at first glance, only a look at the details provided in the backup material will confirm that first impression.

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