To the Editor:
Last Tuesday night the Hamden Board of Education approved the 2012-2013 budget. Less some minor adjustments, it represents a complete capitulation to the Superintendent. The budget is $2.47 Million (3.13 percent) higher than last year, despite the one-year moratorium on teacher raises that would normally have added about $2 million more.
Sorry taxpayers, that is the end of the good news. This budget, basically “piles on” the cash everywhere else. Here are some of the specifics:
Hamden BOE currently has 576 certified staff (administrators and teachers) and 230 support personnel. Our student population is about 5800, only 10 per staff member! Despite ongoing enrollment reductions, the Superintendent plans to add 3 new certified staff and one support person; No layoffs at all! How can that be?
In addition, the plan would replace a part-time lunch aide and a part-time student support person with a full-time Student Support Advisor at each elementary school. This will add (8) new professional positions with a net cost of $71,000 plus benefits. The board also supports pay increases for lunch aides, which were not counted in the budget.
The budget plans to give everyone, other than teachers, a raise.
These include the directors getting over 4 percent, principals 2.5 percent, tutors 10.9 percent, aides 2.5 percent, clerks 4.2 percent, custodians 9.1 percent and stipends by 5 percent. These raises, with a cumulative cost of more than $500,000, should be balanced off with layoffs unless the unions agree to compromise.
- Non-public tuition is growing by an outrageous 27.5 percent or $940,000!
Due to huge costs, indeterminate referrals and mandated responsibility, Special Education is clearly an area of tremendous volatility. This year’s budgeted tuition (public and private) of $10.1 million is currently overrunning by about $908,000. The new budget may more accurately predict the cost. The town is holding $1.5 million in a contingency account for excess Special Ed, which some of the members want to protect. Sorry, that money should be used as designated, rather than ask the taxpayers for more.
- Transportation costs are growing by $275,000 and now total nearly $7 million.
I have noticed a lot of half-filled buses leaving the high school.
Maybe some smart planning and scheduling could cut the fleet significantly?
- Purchased Professional Services are growing by $132,000 (23 percent).
A new expenditure for outside curriculum development for $82,000 has been added. These contribute to the bloated $1.13 million Professional Services budget. Do we really need to spend over so much on outside services? Seems to me we have plenty of talented people internally who could do much of the job.
- Supplies are growing by 10 percent, more than $377,000, to an incredible $4.3 million. Think about that as over $700 per student. Are we crazy?
Instructional supplies/paper alone is increasing $167,000, a 35 percent rise. This item is partially offset by reduced printing costs, but still at $652,000 it seems excessive. How about limiting the amount of paper to the total weight of the student body?
It’s time to get real with these expenditures and cut them to the bone.
I am absolutely offended by the Superintendent/Board’s insistence at spending so much more while the town is in dire financial straits.
The Town Council should reject the proposed budget out of hand.
Send it back with instructions to balance the budget at the same level as last year.
Every year the school budget grows but quality languishes. After many years it is dreadfully apparent that just spending more does not improve the schools. Everyone wants better education for Hamden children, but this year I want to see it done without any increase in cost. It is time to respect the 40,000 plus non-parent taxpayers who have paid the lion’s share of the burden all these years in good faith.
One Board member indicated that this budget would “only” result in a tax increase of about .6-mils. Surely other looming expenses, particularly the pension plan, could make that increase look small. Still, asking taxpayers to pay so much more for education is unacceptable.
The time is long overdue to give Hamden taxpayers a break.
Please do not hold the children hostage for more excessive spending.
Our schools must learn to do more with less.