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School Board Approves $52.3 Million Budget Proposal [POLL]

No revisions were made to Interim Supt. John Goetz's proposal for fiscal year 2012-13.

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.

Steve Kirsch January 05, 2012 at 06:12 PM
QWERTY, you wrote "And now they want a 1.79% increase to replace these 10 year old computers!" You should know that the replacement of the computers is NOT in the 1.79% increase for next year. The computer replacement issue is being discussed for puchase in this school (fiscal) year along with machines needed for "town hall". There are some dollars for "technology" in the proposed budget, but they are for software licenses and professional development. I hope this clears up your (and others) possible confusion.
dr joseph bell January 05, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Many people have a number of misconceptions about the use of technology in the business world. Primarily it is used to login sales, merchandise movements, and time on task in the service industries. In many corporation the most common technology used by the mass of employees is e-mail. Often the technology used by a company is either idiosyncratic to them and thus employees are trained in-house; or broad and based on common programs such as Microsoft Word but there are exceptions even with word processing. I work as a consultant to many different companies/organizations and most are not concerned with an individual hire's technological expertise unless it is an IT position they are applying for. The usual qualities sought in an employee are a demonstrated ability to learn, think creatively, and function as part of a team. While I can understand some of the parental concerns, the underlying belief system that their children will be left behind if they don't have technology available in the schools is pretty much an unnecessary fear that has no basis in fact.
Alex January 05, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Can't make an informed comment till I see where the money is going. My personal opinion is, we have laid off 37 teachers 4 years ago. Is our budget higher than what it was 4 years ago? And if so, how can that be justified? Where is the money going to? If it's going into administrative costs then I going to be extremely disappointed as administrators are for the most part play an indirect role in a child's education so using the mantra that "we need this for the children" would be a complete lie. The computers are certainly old, and they were old last year when we had a surplus and decided not to upgrade them. I'd also like to make sure the computers we do purchase are for a fair price. All too often when companies know the bill is being paid for by a town, that it's a lot easier to mark up the costs. Anyways, I'll have to look at the figures to get informed.
Sheila D January 05, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Thesaurus, what quotes did I make that are not factual about Trumbull? I read the CT Post and Trumbull Patch just like everyone else. They had an increase last year and requested even more this year...what's not factual about that? I'd also note that you need to take your own advice and not make comments that aren't factual since you don't know anything about me, including whether I have a family or how I have been affected by the recession.
Alex January 05, 2012 at 07:37 PM
The only place I've seen a smartboard is at Quinnipiac University where the tuition + room&board is exceeding 40,000/year and they only had 5 or 6 of them! Not a very common technology in businesses. Being in IT/software, businesses are extremely slow when adopting new technology because of security and costs (My company is still using windows XP for the most part and I'm a software engineer!). Most businesses will not allow ipads on their network due to security issues and lack of corporate environment testing with them. Eventually they will be adopted, but so will 3D TVs, 3D Printers, and augmented display glasses...ect Doesn't mean they have an applicable purpose in schools though. I would liken that to schools that went out and bought flat screen TVs for 3000/piece when they first came out because they looked nice, even though a CRT TV would do the same thing for a 1/10th of the price. We need a practical and reasonable approach to funding our schools, not how can we make other towns the envy of our technological superiority.
Steve Kirsch January 05, 2012 at 07:38 PM
Alex, the layoffs have been over fours, not four years ago. Yes, the costs of the education system continue to go up because the per-unit costs of the goods, services, and skills that make up education spending continue to go up. About 80% is people costs - salary and benefits (think medical as the biggest piece). Most school employees work under labor union contracts which continue to go up. As most people know, medical costs have been going up faster than most any cost in the real world (although benefit costs are projected to go down in the next school year). Oil cost per gallon is going up next year as is the bus contract and costs, just as a couple of other example. If you have not done so already, you need to read the school's budget info which is on the web.
QWERTY January 05, 2012 at 07:59 PM
My high school in the 90's had a mounted CRT in every classroom. And when we needed to watch a VHS tape, a separate TV/VCR was wheeled into the classroom. We used the mounted CRT TVs to watch the verdict of the OJ trial! Not really a great use of taxpayer's money to me but it probably looked fancy and tech savvy at the time.
Alex January 05, 2012 at 08:33 PM
Nick: Blackberries are used in almost all corporate environments, should we buy all our children blackberries so they know how to use them properly? To say company A does it so all our children should isn't a practical argument. As for the ipads, I will not argue, Ipads are great for special needs children where the teaching is usually in small groups if not 1 on 1. But in a class with 20 students; it becomes impractical to use as a teaching device and becomes more of a distraction. Have 30 in a computer lab? Sure that's not going to break the bank, but how many did we buy?(honestly do not know, just that we had 700K surplus for that and the smart boards.) Almost anything you can do on an ipad you can do on a computer for much less and have the ability to upgrade the computer when it becomes out of date, as opposed to an ipad: well the 1 and 2 models will be obsolete in a year. If anything we should wait till the prices fall further to purchase such technology as I think we are further than you think from adopting it as a main stream business tool. Want to ensure we have the best education system? Make sure we have the best teachers (with high hiring and evaluation standards), and make the focus on education be from them not a machine.
Alex January 05, 2012 at 08:50 PM
Sheila D what you described could be done 50 years ago with a chalkboard. Teacher writes questions on board, kids fill out answers on notebook, then write answers on the board. Am I missing something here?
Ride the lightning January 05, 2012 at 08:54 PM
Dr. Bell - The iPads are used for special education students, not the general population. They allow children with communication disorders to access the curriculum and children with fine motor problems can access the iPad... Smartboards have been replacing the antiquated chalk boards in many school districts. Smartboards allow such things as teleconferencing with scientists at NASA, interacting and visiting locations world-wide. The interactive electronic whiteboard is great for demonstrations and can accommodate different learning styles. All ages of students respond favorably to board use and Distance learning is an excellent setting for interactive whiteboard use... One-computer classrooms can maximize the use of limited computer access since the computers in our classrooms in the elementary level are 10 years old. Students with limited motor skills can also access the smartboard
Thesaurus January 05, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Sheila, if you have no objection to a 1.79% school budget increase then I am assuming you have not been affected by the recession in comparison to one who has no job or income. You made a comparison between Monroe and Trumbull regarding increases and the number of posters responding to it. When asked how does this cost spread out and affect each homeowner's taxes - you did not have that data to share. That is an important comparison, don't you think? I don't have the answer but I'll guess knowing the commercial tax base Trumbull has over Monroe that it is a lot less than what is being proposed in Monroe. And, I thought for someone so knowledgable about the school budget details, you should have been able to answer that question unless you chose not to. And your interest in this budget leads me to assume you have children in the schools. You are correct, I don't know you but I have read your postings.
Ride the lightning January 05, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Alex - Smartboards cannot do the same things chalkboards could do 50 years ago. Smartboards have been replacing the antiquated chalk boards in many school districts. Smartboards allow such things as teleconferencing with scientists at NASA, interacting and visiting locations world-wide. The interactive electronic whiteboard is great for demonstrations and can accommodate different learning styles. All ages of students respond favorably to board use and Distance learning is an excellent setting for interactive whiteboard use... One-computer classrooms can maximize the use of limited computer access since the computers in our classrooms in the elementary level are 10 years old. Students with limited motor skills can also access the smartboard
Ride the lightning January 05, 2012 at 09:06 PM
Thesauras - 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)
QWERTY January 05, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Thank you for clarifying this but it makes the situation look even worse.
Walt Longmire January 05, 2012 at 09:20 PM
From the Wall Street Journal 24 October 2011, “By now, it should be axiomatic that prospective law school students need to keep a short leash on their online presence, but the point bears repeating, especially in light of this new survey by the good folks at Kaplan Test Prep. U.S. admissions officers at top law schools are far more likely than their counterparts at business schools or other colleges to sniff out their prospective students’ digital trails, the survey found. A healthy 41% of law school admissions officers said they have Googled an applicant to learn more about them, while 37% have checked out an applicant on Facebook or other social networking site. Only 20% of college admissions officers and 27% of business school admissions officers said they Googled an applicant, while less than a quarter of either group have visited an applicant’s Facebook page. It follows then that law school admissions officers dig up the most dirt. The survey found that 32% of those who researched an applicant online discovered something that negatively impacted an applicant’s admissions chances. Only 12% of college admission officers and 14% of business school admissions officers found something online that negatively impacted an applicant. The survey was conducted by phone in July and August 2011 and included responses from 128 of the nation’s 200 American Bar Association-accredited law schools.
CAROL WRIGHT January 05, 2012 at 10:20 PM
lizzy, the problem with voting "no" is that it is interpreted as meaning the budget is too high, since that is why the majority of people vote "no.". unfortunately there is/are no box/boxes for "budget too high" or "budget too low." wish that could be fixed so that the reason behind the "no" vote is known.
monroe taxpayer January 05, 2012 at 11:38 PM
I personally believe it is unfair to compare Monroe to Trumbull due to the differences in tax base. Monroe to Trumbull school systems data from State Department of Education Trumbull's enrollment is 6975 for 2010 - 2011 Monroe enrollment is 3745 for 2010 - 2011 From 2005 - 2006 to 2010 - 2011 Trumbull 's enrollment has increased by +79 From 2005 - 2006 to 2010 - 2011 Monroe's enrollment has decreased by - 405 student.
Walt January 06, 2012 at 12:52 AM
They have a far more commercial tax base than Monroe, c'mon.
Walt January 06, 2012 at 12:55 AM
MT, assuming your numbers are right and RTL's are also correct, we have half the enrollment with near identical residential tax bite. woo hoo!
Alan Vaglivelo January 06, 2012 at 12:56 AM
Walt Longmire, I assure you that learning styles do exist. Students have strengths and weaknesses in which sensory input is received, transformed, stored, retrieved, and used (cognitive processing). These processes are at work whenever we think, reason, learn, and problem solve. Learning involves the complex integration and interaction of many interrelated processes that are spread throughout the brain. They type of learner that would benefit from a Smartboard is a student who learns best by Visual Processing. Visual Processing is the ability to perceive, analyze, synthesize, and think with visual patters, including the ability to store and recall visual representations.
Lizzy January 06, 2012 at 02:56 AM
Carol, normally you would be correct, but if the BOF cuts the budget as I have heard, they can't cut it any lower by state law. Therefore, we could keep voting "no" until the First Selectman increased it. It is the one time that the education supporters have the power of the vote.
Steve Kirsch January 06, 2012 at 09:35 AM
If we do compare with other towns, it is ok if we use relative amounts. Obviously Trumbull has a larger total tax base, but they also have larger expenses. Comparing our BOE proposed increase of 1.79% with Trumbull’s 5.07% is useful as one piece of information if you are asking questions like “Is 1.79% a reasonable figure?” As to the tax base question itself, I posted data in another forum not too long ago that showed that the percentage of the grand list made up residential property was almost the same in Trumbull and Monroe. There is no way to exactly compare any two towns within a single number. However, that does not mean that comparisons are completely useless. We just have to be sure that we are not trying to make too much out of one number.
Steve Kirsch January 06, 2012 at 09:44 AM
Walt, don't confuse our tax rate with our budgeted expenses. Our tax rate is similar to Trumbull's, but their grand list is much bigger, so they generate more tax dollars than we do. Furthermore, I would suggest that Trumbull's "tax bite" per residential property is actually greater in Trumbull since their property values are generally higher for the same size house and land.
Alan Vaglivelo January 06, 2012 at 12:20 PM
Walt L, most textbooks/journal articles on learning disabilities, neuropsychology, and or intelligence should demonstrate how people learn.
Ride the lightning January 06, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Longmire - so what your basically saying is there is no such thing as special education and learning differences. WOW! Based on your theory all children learn the same and schools should apply an assembly line approach to teaching. Do you believe that special education is a myth?
Ride the lightning January 06, 2012 at 03:25 PM
Longmire - you are googling, taking information/magazine articles on college education out of context by applying them to elementary/high school education.
Centrist January 06, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Walt, I take issue with the integrity of your sources. It is one thing to do a blanket search for text that can have a scholarly conversation about an issue, however, to make a blanket claim that these are "experts in the field", these ideas are now "dismissed theories....now accepted by the larger educational community" is lacking the understanding that there is an equal amount of polarized thinkers on the opposite side of this issue printing texts that prove and support these methods. Another words, your sources have been cherry picked. Theories and thought always have an opposition party in support and in dissent, yet the ones that you have chosen are purely those in dissent. I'll take them at face value knowing that there are equal if not stronger claims that learning styles infact do exist.
QWERTY January 06, 2012 at 04:39 PM
But you see Steve (or maybe you don't), IMO that's considered bad behavior. It shouldn't be swept under the rug simply because it doesn't apply to the next budget. The school system knew the taxpayers would never ever EVER allow ANY budget to include for such luxuries as iPads and smartboards. So the system used protected money to purchase these items. The protected money could have gone to upgrade 10 year old computer which I'm assuming are used by hundreds of students. But instead, the system knew it would be easier to pass these computer upgrades through the normal budget process. And if you have information that I'm not privy to, please share by all means but in my eyes, this just seems dirty to me. Seems like the BoE is trying to eat their dessert first.
Ride the lightning January 06, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Longmire - I read your articles and it is obvious they were cherry picked via a google search. Research involves thoroughly investigating BOTH sides of a specific topic. What you posted is not research. As a matter of fact, you never even defined "learning differences."
jim laguardia January 06, 2012 at 05:35 PM
does all the back and forth really matter?? wont the BoF just cut it down to the minimum, like last year?

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