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Superintendent Proposes 1.79% Spending Hike for 2012-13

Interim Supt. of Schools John Goetz presented his budget to the Board of Education at its meeting Monday night.

Interim Supt. of Schools John Goetz believes a $52.35 million budget will allow Monroe Public Schools to meet its mission of preparing students to be "citizens in a world where they can make positive contributions to the diverse and global communities in which they learn, live and work." His proposal for fiscal year 2012-13 marks a 1.79 percent increase over current spending.

Though he told the Board of Education during its Monday night meeting that the budget would move the district forward, Goetz said the proposed spending package is also fiscally responsible.

"I like to think we're being realistic in putting out a budget the town can afford," he said.

Of 118 accounts, 68 of them either have either no increase or a spending decrease, according to Goetz. Last year, the Board of Education had a zero percent overall spending increase.

The current $51.4 million budget would increase by $923,075 if Goetz's proposal is approved without cuts. If there are cuts, he said the district would work to ensure that the lowest number of students are impacted.

The proposal does not include needs in the five-year capital plan, because most are "big ticket items" that the town would bond for. Goetz said the district's infrastructure needs will be evaluated along with other town needs by the Capital Infrastructure Facility Asset Planning Sub-Committee (CIFAP), a subcommittee of the Planning & Zoning Commission.

Goetz said there will be more discussion of the capital plan in future budget workshops.

The key drivers in the spending increase are contractual obligations, transportation costs, energy, special education, facility and technology costs, and funding for curriculum and instruction.

Goetz said just over 80 percent of the operating budget is for salaries and benefits. A salary freeze for teachers in the current year has been lifted for 2012-13.

Two full time teaching positions are being reduced at Fawn Hollow Elementary School, along with a 1.6 at Jockey Hollow Middle School. Goetz proposes adding a full time K-5 English Language Arts coordinator and a .4 physical education teacher for Jockey Hollow Middle School.

He said the English Language Arts coordinator supports the goal of having all students prepared for the Common Core standards, which Monroe Public Schools must adopt by 2014.

Student enrollment has steadily declined over the past four years, though Goetz noted that it has been stable compared to last year as classes moved from grade to grade.

As a result of declining enrollment, Goetz said the district reducted its number of certified staff by 37 over the past four years.

Unpredictable Expenses

The interim superintendent outlined variables that could potentially drive up costs in the budget, including unpredictable things such as decreases in state and federal funding, unanticipated special education costs, consortium rates for energy costs not being set, unanticipated maintenance costs and the limited trend history in the new health benefits plan.

One aspect of the budget Goetz said the Board of Education must decide upon is how much money it wants in its Health Savings Account, which has about $2 million in it. If it's too low, then the Board of Education is at high risk for claims. But if it is too high, then money is tied up where it is not needed. He said the board should come up with a figure it is comfortable with.

Bang for Monroe's Buck

At the end of his presentation, Goetz showed how Connecticut Economy ranked Monroe as one of the top districts in the state in efficiency of resources linked to student achievement.

"Out of about 120 districts, we're in the top 20 in efficiency of using our resources," he said. "That's something important to know and that Monroe should feel good about."

The measures factoring into the ranking were teaching staff, administrative staff, computers in use, hours of instruction and students' performance in math, reading and writing.

After the presentation, Board of Education Secretary Mark Hughes praised the work of Goetz and Assistant Supt. of Schools John Battista.

"Mr. Goetz, Mr. Battista and the entire administration did an excellent job of keeping the budget under two percent this year and they are to be commended," Hughes said.

Working Together

First Selectman Steve Vavrek and Town Councilwoman Debra Dutches, the liaison to the Board of Education, attended the meeting.

Though he said he has yet to take a closer look at the numbers, Vavrek did say, "I'm very happy with the talk of infrastructure and maintenance. I like the fact that you're working more with town officials and that there will be a combining of services."

Town Financial Director Carl Tomchik and Dr. Craig Tunks, head of technology for the school district, have been working together for the bundled purchase of new computers for Masuk High School, Monroe Town Hall, the police department and Edith Wheeler Memorial Library.

Tunks said the school district does not buy computers when it does not need them, as evidenced by the fact that a number of the elementary school computers are 10 years old. Masuk uses computers more, so Tunks said it will have the new computers and those replaced will upgrade the computers in the middle and elementary schools.

Steve Kirsch, who attends all of the meetings, was disappointed that the presentation did not say where the some $300,000 for the computer replacements would come from. He also wanted to hear administrators talk about things their schools need that did not make it into Goetz's budget.

QWERTY December 11, 2011 at 09:35 PM
Amy, perhaps our definitions of tenure are different. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenure_%28academic%29 "Tenure commonly refers to life tenure in a job and specifically to a senior academic's contractual right not to have his or her position terminated without just cause."
Ride the lightning December 11, 2011 at 10:27 PM
captrips - go to the Connecticut Department of Education and look up District Reference Groups. You will find all the towns I listed in DRG-B. As I stated previously, four variables are used (income, education, occupation and family structure). All variables are based upon families with children attending public school.
monroe taxpayer December 11, 2011 at 10:44 PM
This seems true of all most other towns when compare to Monroe? Let be clear our commercial tax base pales in comparison. Any increases to any budget for any reason places more burden homeowners here, then on most if not all of the towns on this silly list.. I can not help but wonder why some are telling us to ignore what ours eyes are telling us and only believe what we are told? As far as sewers are concerned, my question is why after all of these 30+ years have we not changed the plan that is not working? Why are we locked into this one and only plan? I believe a few years ago Newtown did a partial system that did part of town?
captrips December 11, 2011 at 11:20 PM
Ride the lightning – Thanks. It clarifies where you’re coming from. However, as you previously stated, there are obvious flaws with the districting in the list; Greenwich with affluence and poverty. This would also apply to other towns like Fairfield where the extreme affluence of areas like Southport and Greenfield Hill skew any comparison. Therefore, the list has to be questioned as to it’s relevance as constituted. In addition, it fails to consider a major component of any discussion on school budgets – the commercial tax base relative to overall dollars available for funding town/city budgets. While we may compare with many of these towns based on the DRG attributes, the comparisons fall short with many when commercial taxes are considered. Again, look no further than our neighbors immediately to the south – Trumbull.
Alan Vaglivelo December 11, 2011 at 11:30 PM
Towns and cities are in Connecticut are categorized into nine groups, labeled A through I, as District Reference Groups (DRGs) using the same formula. Seven data indicators are used to classify similar districts into a DRG: three indicators of socioeconomic status (median family income, parental education, and parental occupation) three indicators of need (percentage of children living in families with a single parent the percentage of public school children eligible to receive free or reduced-price meals and percentage of children whose families speak a language other than English at home) and enrollment (the number of students attending schools in that district). The most affluent districts, as measured by these indicators, are grouped in DRG A while the poorest and highest need districts – including Connecticut’s five largest cities – are grouped in DRG I. See the following link for the breakdown - http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/LIB/sde/PDF/dgm/report1/cpse2006/appndxa.pdf
Walt December 11, 2011 at 11:38 PM
Ride, I really don't care what DRG we are in. You can cite the slums of greenwich or what they do in trumbull, I really don't care. I live here and pay taxes here, use what little town services are offered here and my two kids go to school here. Monroe has good schools, no, very good schools. Maybe they don't teach esperanto and many have to pay extra for sports programs (they should) but they are still very good schools. Perhaps if you are envious of those other towns in the DRG you take up residence there where maybe they will fulfill your desire in a school system.
Gruyere December 12, 2011 at 03:35 AM
Just do what the real world does.... Cut budget by x%, grow a pair and tell the teacher's union to f-off. No teachers will quit. The good, conscientious young teachers don't want or need the unions anyway.
Steve Kirsch December 12, 2011 at 04:51 AM
Gruyere, are you suggesting that one party to a contract should be able to break the contract whenever they want? Are you saying that one party can change the terms of a contract whenever it seems to be in their interest? Before you answer think about what would happen if contracts that you are part of could be changed by the other party whenever they wanted. Would you want this?
QWERTY December 12, 2011 at 05:18 AM
Maybe don't sign these contracts in the first place......
Steve Kirsch December 12, 2011 at 05:27 AM
QWERTY, by law we have to unless the Town Council chooses to vote no and appeal and ultimately there will be a binding contract. So lets try to deal with reality...
Gruyere December 13, 2011 at 12:45 AM
You are right Steve. My bad. I'm just frustrated and think that public employee unions are not needed, serve no purpose and cost taxpayers more than the value pulled out of the union's existence. Our town officials sign contract that are one sided. The tenure rules are goofy. You can be a top performer for a few years and then get all these benefits for life? Why? This is not an attack only on teachers contracts but on all public employee unions. We have laws now to protect workers rights, these unions are non-competive. Sorry for the rant. I guess we have to honor the existing contract but shame on us if we continue doing this to ourselves. I read an article about one state that Superindents get 30 sick days. PAID. Weird.
Gruyere December 13, 2011 at 12:47 AM
Sorry, I'm not an idiot, just typed too fast and didn't proof read the last post:)
Tiare Fahey December 30, 2011 at 11:30 PM
To the person who compared us to Trumbull is comparing apples to oranges. Trumbull has extensive commercial taxpayers, access to public water and public sewage, more constituents and a much larger tax base from which to draw. We are not currently in the same state. So, therefore, we cannot realistically be compared to Trumbull or any of our neighbors in terms of what we can afford and what "everybody else" can afford.
Ride the lightning December 31, 2011 at 12:03 AM
@Tiare Fahey; The latest report by the CT Office of Policy and Management has the following breakdown for Monroe & Trumbull: Percent of Grand List Assessment Residential: Monroe 77.3% Trumbull 76.5% Comm/Indust/Pub Util: Monroe 10.3% Trumbull 12.7% There are three other groups, Motor Vehicle, Personal, and Other that make up the other percentages. OPM also has something called the Equalized Mill Rate (EMR) which is an attempt to deal with the different assessment dates in each town and therefore the differences in the values of property. The latest report for Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2010 shows Trumbull with a higher EMR (18.15) than Monroe (17.53).
Ride the lightning December 31, 2011 at 12:06 AM
@Tiare Fahey; the socioeconomic status of Monroe and Trumbull is also similar. Median family income is about 105,000 for both towns.
monroe taxpayer December 31, 2011 at 12:31 AM
I agree, this is also true of the other towns in our DRG group. Anyone can simply drive thru these towns and see for themselves. It seems some want us to ignore what our eyes are telling us and to just believe what we are being told instead?
Ride the lightning December 31, 2011 at 01:57 AM
@monroetaxpayer; really? You may be able to fool other fools but the fact is the towns in our DRG are all similar in terms of socioeconomic status. What towns should we compare ourselves to in your opinion? You live in the past of old Monroe. This is not a farming community anymore and it never will be again.
monroe taxpayer December 31, 2011 at 03:16 AM
Rid the Lightning Where did I say anything about the past or farming?? You must have been blinded by your own flash and could not see the difference between Monroe and Trumbull or the other towns in the our DRG group when you drove thru? I suggest you do not drive while blind for everyone safety. Or are you trying to replacing reality of what everyone's eyes are telling them with your own views and beliefs? Your attempts at dismissal just does not work. I am sorry but the truth is obvious to anyone who chooses to just look with their own eyes.
Ride the lightning December 31, 2011 at 04:16 AM
@Monroetaxpayer; where are your facts? What towns should Monroe be compared to in your opinion? Your foolish remarks only fool other fools. You have nothing to offer but empty remarks. The fact is we compete against the following towns that have a similar socioeconomic status. These towns are all grouped together in our district reference group. In this group we currently have the largest class sizes and highest pay-to-play. AVON BROOKFIELD CHESHIRE FAIRFIELD FARMINGTON GLASTONBURY GRANBY GREENWICH GUILFORD MADISON MONROE NEW FAIRFIELD NEWTOWN ORANGE SIMSBURY SOUTH WINDSOR TRUMBULL WEST HARTFORD WOODBRIDGE DISTRICT NO. 5 DISTRICT NO. 15
Gruyere December 31, 2011 at 04:50 AM
Can't imagine Monroe is benchmarked against towns like Greenwich, Simsbury, Avon, Fairfield? Really? My guess is average income isn't comparable. I don't know what towns would be comparable but certainly not the 4 I mentioned. Simple, hold teacher salaries flat, decrease administrative positions. Not too long ago I had my own secretary and now I share with two other people. Seems we could learn from private sector. Not long ago the standard merit increase for my company was 4% for "meets acceptable standards". Last year it was 2.2% increase for same level of performance. Why not do what private industry does....oh.... Public employee union contracts. Almost forgot:). Where's the value??
Steve Kirsch December 31, 2011 at 08:00 AM
Gruyere, you might want to review the DRG information write-up at http://sdeportal.ct.gov/Cedar/Files/Pdf/Reports/db_drg_06_2006.pdf It explains that the groupings are not just about income. You picked four towns, so lets look at one variable - Percent Poverty. Only Avon (1.8%) is LOWER than Monroe (2.0%). The other three towns have a higher percentage (3.4% Simsbury, 4.9% Fairfield, 7.5% Greenwich). How about non-english speakers - Monroe is the LOWEST at 3.1%. The other towns all have more - 3.4% Simsbury, 4.1% Avon, 6.2% Fairfield, 17.1% Greenwich. The DRG are groups that are more alike in a number of areas than other towns in other groups. I would suggest that we use data that is set up by the state rather than trying to use our own, individual, views or opinions.
Walt December 31, 2011 at 02:08 PM
Too bad there is not a category for "ability to pay".
Gruyere December 31, 2011 at 02:57 PM
Thanks Steve, I just read the document and you are right it was very educational. Thanks for the link. The system seems rational. Hopefully the folks who built the DRG system consider the minute details within each of the DRG metrics. Since I actually think these blogs are for expressing individual opinions and views.....my opinion is that a "non-english speaker" is a touch thing to measure. My opinion is that a Chinese with an MBA from Columbia is more likely going to make their child do homework than most any other "non-english speaker". So that's one of many areas of detail that need to be teased out in any of these funding exercises. I'm just using that as an example of how there are problems with these categories. Another opinion I have is that politicians often try to throw money at problems rather than address the real issues. The poster child for this is Detroit public schools. No amount of money will fix the problem. If the State throws any more money into the lower DRGs, my opinion is that it will be wasted. My opinion is that adressing expenses, personal responsibility and corruption is the only way to keep taxes low. Anyway, big issue, lots of opinions. Thanks for the data though, it's very interesting.
monroe taxpayer December 31, 2011 at 05:59 PM
So we are being told that all that commercial and businesses development in Trumbull or other towns in our DRG does not give them a better ability to fund budgets compared to Monroe? What we see means nothing? And we are being told the DRG took every detail in account? Your kidding right? Without a comparison of an equal tax base DRG is simply inaccurate. And everyone who drive thur these towns can see the difference for them selves. So there goes the claims of accuracy and of fairness.
Ride the lightning December 31, 2011 at 06:23 PM
Estimate of real estate property taxes paid for housing units in 2009: Monroe: 2.5% ($3,957) Estimate of real estate property taxes paid for housing units in 2009: Trumbull: 2.4% ($3,937) Connecticut: 3.0% ($2,961)
monroe taxpayer December 31, 2011 at 07:11 PM
First we use inaccurate comparison now we are using estimates that are two years old? How about some accuracy. Anyone can drive around Connecticut and compare Monroe's commercial tax base to these other towns and see the difference.
jon watson December 31, 2011 at 07:44 PM
Where are those estimates from? Last year a reporter for the Conn Post published date showing the average homeowner was paying around 9,000 per house. I go with there are three kinds of liars: liars, damn liars, and statistics.
Ride the lightning December 31, 2011 at 08:29 PM
Jon - city-data.com
Ride the lightning December 31, 2011 at 08:33 PM
monroetaxpayer - lets see your data, so far you have added nothing to the conversation.
jon watson December 31, 2011 at 11:37 PM
I checked out that site and have some concerns regarding their info. For example, they report "Mean prices in 2009: All housing units: $492,789; Detached houses: $514,023;" I believe they have the same crazed estimates out tax collector has. I suggest you check out Zillow when it comes to recent house sales in Monroe. If you check what people paid and what many have sold for you will find a number of house sales reflect that sellers have "eaten" between $200,000 and $100,000 just to get out of Monroe. I know I have offered to sell my house to the town for its appraised value and the the city isn't willing to pay that price. I have even suggested the town be the buyer of last resort and be required to purchase any house for its assessed value. No one at town hall likes that idea? Wonder why?

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