Interim Superintendent of Schools John Goetz's $52,357,813 budget proposal for fiscal year 2012-13, a 1.79 percent increase from current spending, was approved by the Board of Education at its Tuesday night meeting. No cuts nor increases were made to the proposal and there was little discussion before the 7-2 vote in favor of it.
"I want to thank the administration for bringing this in at a reasonable increase," said Mark Antinozzi, a board member.
Antinozzi noted that $52.3 million is a lot of money, but said "maintaining the highest standards that Monroe students and parents expect" is a "big business."
Goetz said administrators weighed two factors: The educational needs of the district and the ability of townspeople to pay. "This is not an inflated budget," he said.
The school district had no increase this fiscal year, so Goetz said the proposal is actually for a 1.79 percent spending increase over two years.
While he conceded there has been a reduction in student enrollment, with teachers spread among three elementary schools and multiple levels at Masuk High School, Goetz said it is not as simple as eliminating a teacher for every loss of 25 students.
Nevertheless, he said noted that have reduced 37 teaching positions over the past four years.
"We're not big spenders," Goetz said, adding objective outside groups such as the Yankee Institute have recognized Monroe for how well it uses its resources.
Incoming superintendent, James Agostine, attended the meeting, and Goetz said he has been involved in the process to gain a good understanding of the budget. The district will continue to "take a good hard look at the budget," according to Goetz.
He said educators will continue to work closely with town leaders in an open process with good dialogue right up to the budget referendum vote.
Questions, Some Dissent
Only two board members asked questions about the budget proposal before the vote, Kelly Plunkett and Lee Crouch, both Democrats.
Plunkett asked about the number of sections in the Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) Academy and Goetz said there would still be a total of 10 for about 225 students.
"I have concerns over the 1.79 percent," Crouch said of the proposed increase. "We need to add significant dollars."
In her seven years on the board, Crouch said a social worker had always been proposed, but not this year. She also said more than $100,000 should be spent on technology and, with 38 students not accepted into STEM, Crouch added that more should be spent on professional development for all students to benefit.
"My concern is we're trying to hit a certain number and we're not doing the best we can for the needs of our students," Crouch said.
She said the first selectman and Board of Finance traditionally make cuts to the Board of Education's budget proposals, adding to her concern of a request for a low 1.79 percent increase out of the gate.
Crouch and Dr. Alan Vaglivelo, also a Democrat, voted against Goetz's proposal. After the meeting, Vaglivelo said he shared Crouch's reasoning in voting no, adding he is always concerned about class sizes and believes more should be spent on professional development with the more stringent Common Core curriculum standards coming down the pike.