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Superintendent, School Board Chairman Agree to No Budget Increase

Board of Finance members showed unanimous support in a straw vote to keep Board of Education expenses flat for fiscal year 2012-13

Supt. of Schools James Agostine and Board of Education Chairman Darrell Trump both support a Board of Finance plan to use enterprise funds and a portion of the medical reserve to take the proposed education budget increase down to zero.

"You're okay with zero?" Board of Finance Chairman Mark Reed asked Agostine at a Board of Finance Budget Workshop at Chalk Hill School Thursday night.

"We can make it work," Agostine replied.

The Board of Finance took a straw vote and unanimously agreed on the zero percent increase to fund Monroe Public Schools. The official budget vote will be taken at its meeting next Wednesday.

The Board of Education's budget it currently $51.4 million.

Throughout the process, Agostine and a few Board of Education members had mentioned needs, such as building maintenance and technology, which were not included in their spending request.

Ted Quinlan, a Board of Finance member, said, "I heard whatever was not submitted in the budget is the problem of the people who submitted the budget. Next year I implore you to put it all on the table. Look at it as a Christmas list, because you can't get what you don't ask for."

"We absolutely will do it," Agostine said with a smile.

The Board of Education had requested a 1.79 percent increase. But Board of Finance Chairman Mark Reed and fellow board member Michael Manjos had recently presented a proposal on how the Board of Education could bring that down to zero.

They said that the enterprise fund — which is about $530,000) could be used, as well as a portion of the medical reserve, which they believe is overfunded.

Trump said based on an evaluation by the Board of Education's claims provider, he believes a portion of the medical reserve can be used to offset the budget increase. He also credited Agostine for bringing the significant growth of the enterprise fund to the board's attention.

Trump expressed a desire to work more closely with the Board of Finance and said he would support a zero percent increase in hopes of a successful first referendum.

"I believe we would continue to meet our obligations as advocates of the children of this community," he said. "A zero percent budget, funded as I have outlined would not result in any reduction of staff or programs and would allow us to continue to provide a quality program to the children of Monroe."

Jeff Guttman, a Board of Education member, said he believes Reed and Manjos' plan was a "terrific proposal" because teachers, students and programs would not be adversly affected.

The Enterprise Fund

Agostine explained that the enterprise fund is a contra account, a place to process incoming revenue. Ideally, he said a little will be left at the end of the fiscal year, which could then be used as start up money for the next year.

"We had a daycare center, so the money was coming in faster," Agostine said, alluding to the time the Board of Education housed a daycare center at Jockey Hollow Middle School. "It is our intention to run a close to zero balance."

Gabriela DiBlasi, the finance director for the school district, said she believes the enterprise fund first began to accumulate significant sums in 2005. She said funding from the account was used to start the Science Technology Engineering & Math Academy this year.

Agostine wants to use some of the fund for technology and building maintenance.

The Medical Fund

Quinlan wanted to make sure that the $400,000 taken out of the Board of Education's medical reserve fund was not just a number needed to take the increase down zero percent.

Agostine said, "Even early on in the process, the medical reserve was looked at as a place to cut if we needed to cut."

The superintendent added that negotiations with unions were still going on at that time and that the Board of Education did not know which direction that would go.

"Our consultant was confident we could go to 25 percent," Agostine said of the reserve fund.

Trump's Proposals

Trump wants to use a portion of the enterprise funds to set up a technology account to replace some aging computers. He also asked the Board of Finance to consider the capital needs of Monroe's schools during its deliberations.

Another request made by Trump is to use $129,000 in unallocated funds the Board of Education returned to the town as an account it can draw from to make the first year payment on new financial software to be used by Monroe Public Schools and the town.

John F. March 22, 2012 at 01:27 AM
I am using the state numbers directly off their website, not calculating the cost myself.
jim laguardia March 22, 2012 at 01:53 AM
"incorrect" as the first word of a statement, is that not rude?
Steve Kirsch March 22, 2012 at 05:55 AM
We all should be using the per-pupil spending number from the state because it assures that all data are equal and include the same type of costs and the same way to measure students. However, just looking at one number does not necessarily mean that you know what it really means. Monroe’s per-pupil spending has been growing in large part because the number of students has been shrinking, not because we have been increasing spending so much. When people look at the per-pupil comparison with Trumbull, for example, Monroe's value is now greater than Trumbull’s, in large part because they did not have the continuous decline in enrollment that we have since 2005-06. Their education budget continues to increase at a higher rate than Monroe’s.
Sheila D March 22, 2012 at 12:09 PM
John F, In theory your approach would be much easier, but it would certainly provide an incorrect number. A perfect example is that towns such as Trumbull have 'in-kind' services provided for the schools by the municipal workers that is covered in the muncipal budget and not the BoE budget. Services such as snow plowing are done by the town plow trucks, whereas here in Monroe, the BoE funds their own trucks and do their own plowing.
Lisa Dutkowsky March 22, 2012 at 01:11 PM
You say that Kelly is "idolized" by the group. The definition of idolize is: to worship as a god -or- to love or admire to excess. I can tell you unequivocally that she is not idolized, doesn't want to be idolized and does not "eat it up." I've known Kelly since 2005 when we moved here; she was one of the first people I met and I consider myself lucky to know her. She has always been a very warm, caring, friendly and understanding person. She is a committed community volunteer and a good friend to those that know her and to call her pompous is really, really mean and frankly, really inaccurate. You must be confusing "pompous" with "smart." Yes, she does carry a great weight of responsibility - the great responsibility of making sure this school system stays on a straight and productive path to success. Thanks for pointing out her greatness to everyone. If every parent in this town were as knowledgeable and dedicated as Kelly, we wouldn't have these lingering problems. Whenever my husband needs an update on the happenings at BOE or the town or the budget, my stock answer is "call Kelly." She keeps herself informed and aware; she leads by example and we should all follow her lead. And for the record, I hate kool-aid and I assure you my feet are planted firmly on the ground.
Paul Sobel March 22, 2012 at 01:15 PM
The statistics on "home prices" (whatever that may mean) and change in median sale price are meaningless information on the subject of what a reasonably accurate estimate of the change in market value of any individual house may be or the change in market value, on average, for the entire housing stock in the town. The number of sales taking palce is extremely small. Many of them are distressed sales on bank owned property and do not reflect what a ready and willing buyer would pay for a well maintained property. The characteritiscs of the individual properties skew the average tremendously (how many less expensive single family homes vs. how many condominium units vs. how many more expenses single family homes vs. how may sales of bank owned real estate are in the statistically small sampling of sales), etc.
Paul Sobel March 22, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Info. related to cost per pupil: 1. The denominator is enrollment, and Monroe's has been declining. 2. One thing that people may not realize is that cost per pupil does not include transportation. 3. Another thing that people may not realize is that cost per pupil does not include the 19% of gross payroll the state (through state taxpayer dollars) contributes to the teacher retirement board (essentially a substitute for an employer's FICA contribution, as the state retirement system is in lieu of FICA for teachers). The 19% of gross payroll may change the next time an actuarial calcualation is made on the percentage of payroll contribution needed to support the teacher retirement system.
Christine E. March 22, 2012 at 02:58 PM
I guess that's up for personal interpretation, but by your logic your response to me would also be rude. How dare you use the word incorrect first ;)
Thesaurus March 22, 2012 at 03:27 PM
Sheila D-don't dictate to me. VOTE NO!
Cindy Cervini March 22, 2012 at 09:28 PM
QWERTY--I was under the impression that when you went to school you walked barefoot in the snow, uphill both ways.... Christine, A late bus costs $$$, something I doubt you would be willing to add to the budget, especially since you seem to be so anti-budget increase. Many kids leave school and go straight to an after school job, making it necessary for them to drive in order to get to their job on time. Frequently the younger kids can get rides with older friends or siblings who drive to school, because many parents work to support their families. Because this issue doesn't affect your life, I can understand how it would be difficult for you to see the bigger picture.
Christine E. March 22, 2012 at 10:21 PM
Oh Cindy, I've lived it. I got my license at the end of my Sophomore year of High School. My school only distributed parking passes for Juniors and Seniors, and it was first-come, first-serve because parking was sparce. I didn't get a car handed to me when I got my license...I got a job the day I turned 16 (not because I wanted it), and my parents required that I save up and get my own, while most of my rich friends got one given to them. Even when I got my car, I still didn't drive to school because I also had to save up money for the $85 parking pass. Both of my parents worked, so it wasn't easy to get a ride to anything, and I'm an only child...so no older siblings, either...but I managed, and so did everyone else back then, and everyone else decades before me. I am tired of getting lectured by people like you, in the "how would you know" generation, who think that somehow life today is so much harder. In regards to the late bus, I didn't say to put it in the budget...I was just sharing an experience of my own, and you chose to interpret my words improperly.
stonesoup March 22, 2012 at 11:11 PM
Bravo, Christine. Some people just don't get it, yet.
jim laguardia March 23, 2012 at 12:12 AM
wow christine, your story explains a lot
Christine E. March 23, 2012 at 12:27 AM
What Jim, please divulge...
Cindy Cervini March 23, 2012 at 01:22 AM
Congratulations, Christine! You grew up much the same way as many of the rest of us did--what an accomplishment! Your story just supports my original point of why some teenagers need to drive to school rather that take the "free transportation". Other than that, I'm not quite sure what your autobiography has to do with the fact that because you don't have any children you are unable to relate to certain issues that parents and their families face today.
Christine E. March 23, 2012 at 01:48 AM
That's exactly my point, Cindy. You think no one can relate, but why? We were all teenagers...we saw how things worked...we paid attention, even when our parents didn't think we were. So....this "you have no children, so you have no idea" stuff is getting tired. What you are facing 'today' is not much different than what was faced 20 years ago...people managed, did they not?
Ride the lightning March 23, 2012 at 05:02 AM
@Christine E - there is a very big difference between being a teenager and being a parent. You life changes dramatically when you have children. Your priorities, responsibilities, and they way you look at the world changes. You simply cannot relate unless you have children of your own.
Steve Kirsch March 23, 2012 at 05:40 AM
The kids are starting a new "chapter" of SAID. They reported at the BOE meeting that they had been in touch with the other schools.
Cindy Cervini March 23, 2012 at 11:56 AM
"We were all teenagers...we saw how things worked".....You sure did, through a teenager's eyes! That gave me my first laugh of the day! That statement alone proves my point!
Christine E. March 23, 2012 at 12:26 PM
...and here you are completely missing the point, again. I'll try again. Your kids have the opportunity to drive to school and pay a parking fee...like every other kid in the area has done for decades. You are complaining about transportation like you are the only person who has ever been inconvenienced by it. You are not the only parent on planet earth. I'm sure you'll be fine.
Cindy Cervini March 23, 2012 at 01:18 PM
@Christine Hmmm...where did I complain about transportation? I simply made a statement. And because you do not have children you really cannot see the whole picture, plain and simple, in much the same way it is difficult for me to objectively view the world through the eyes of a senior on a fixed income or someone without a family. Your trolling to constantly find someone to disagree with on this board is impressive.
jim laguardia March 23, 2012 at 02:57 PM
your story reveals a lot about why you take the time to "trolling" to find someone to disagree with or point out someones mistakes.... it explains the reason for your bitterness
Thesaurus March 23, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Christine E-I'm interested in your postings even when they are contrary to my own and I hope you will continue.
Christine E. March 23, 2012 at 05:59 PM
I find it hilarious how you consider me a troll, Jim (and Cindy) because I disagree with you. I don't disagree with everyone. In fact, I agree with a lot of people, and often say so. But, because I disagree with YOU, I must be called names. All you've done is point out the hypocracy in yourself, Jim. Just yesterday you spoke out against personal attacks, and today you're calling me a troll. Classy guy! Besides, Jim...you comment on here daily, several times per day...so what does that make you?
Christine E. March 23, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Thesaurus, Much appreciated. Likewise.
jim laguardia March 23, 2012 at 06:14 PM
i believe you once said I "pranced" around..... the difference between you and I are that you pick on people for making mistakes. i dont care if you tell us your opinion on anything and your opinion may be right but asking what 14 and 15 year olds are doing at school after hours seems to be a form of attack on them
QWERTY March 23, 2012 at 07:21 PM
Cindy Cervini - no, I'm fairly young. And we're talking about EXTRA-curricular activities. The EXTRA meaning extra money, extra time, extra effort. Parents have to do a little extra, just like the students. $150 isn't going to be a deal-breaker with $4/gal gas and $5,000 cars (reasonably priced).
Christine E. March 23, 2012 at 07:40 PM
Haha, oh Jim. Correcting mistakes and disagreeing with people's ideas isn't a personal attack on them, nor is it picking on them. Picking on someone is calling them names and attacking their personality. You've already done that, today...
jim laguardia March 23, 2012 at 08:19 PM
no "Christine E." if anything i have made comments about an unknown entity, for all i know you could be that room full of monkeys slaming on a keyboard and mouse, (the ones that used to write plays on typewriters). That leads to the other big difference if I am right or wrong I am the one saying it and not hiding behind a screen name.
jim laguardia March 23, 2012 at 08:20 PM
woooohoooo over 100 comments and most of them off topic !!!

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