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New Milford school board cautious about budget

April 25, 2018 GMT

NEW MILFORD — Facing a drastic cut in state funding in next year’s budget, the school district is hoping for some relief as the General Assembly considers two budget proposals that would give towns more money for education.

Board of Education Chairman David Lawson said he was “cautiously optimistic” at Tuesday’s meeting that the town would get more funding than the state has proposed. New Milford is expecting to receive $3 million less in state money for the next school year.

Lawson said the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education is heavily lobbying for the state to restore grants given to towns to cover education costs, as well as other areas that use state money for school-related expenses.

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Tuesday’s meeting was the first school board meeting since the finance board approved a $101.6 million budget, including $63.3 million for the schools — about $900,000 less than the $1.4 million, or 2.34 percent, increase the school board requested.

Superintendent of Schools Joshua Smith said school officials were looking at possible places to make up that $900,000 and welcomed suggestions from the board as soon as possible so they could start researching the feasibilities and cost savings.

The budget the school board approved already included nine less positions, two of which were eliminated this school year. Smith said he met with the other seven teachers Tuesday to let them know their positions won’t be there next year. He said the district will try to find other places for them if there are retirements or other teachers leave.

Earlier in the meeting, Megan Byrd, a parent who started a group to advocate for more money for the schools, offered suggestions on how school officials could “think outside of the box” to find savings and avoid cutting programs or staff. These included starting pay to play for extracurricular activities, having parents donate supplies at the beginning of the year and letting people give more money when they pay taxes for certain items.

“Once we cut something, it will be more costly to reinstate something and more difficult to bring it back,” she said.

She said she and members of the group will now push for people to pass the budgets as presented to prevent the possibility of them being cut when they go back to Town Council if they fail.

The budget referendum will be on May 15, following the town meeting on May 3.