Stafford school board mulls spending cuts

·3 min read

May 15—STAFFORD — The Board of Education will consider reductions to its proposed budget on Monday after the Board of Finance declined to forward the combined town and school board fiscal year 2021-22 spending plan to a public vote at its most recent meeting, Superintendent Steven Moccio said.

During their May 5 meeting, Finance Board members expressed concerns about the size of the proposed budget, which included about $11.2 million on the town side and just under $29.4 million from the Board of Education.

Under those proposals, the general town government budget would increase by about $584,000 while the school budget would increase by about $1.1 million. However, the school board anticipates being able to use over $800,000 in excess funds from the current fiscal year to bring that spending hike down to an increase of $275,000, documents show.

BUDGET DELIBERATIONS CONTINUE

FINANCE BOARD: Officials should work toward flat mill rate

SELECTMEN: $113,250 budget reduction

NEXT: Board of Education to revise its proposal.

Although the Board of Finance did not vote to ask either the Board of Selectmen or Board of Education to cut specific amounts, Chairman Francis Moriarty said each board, as well as the Public Library Board, should meet to consider trimming their proposed budgets before the Board of Finance's next scheduled meeting on May 19.

Noting that projected revenues have increased following a town-wide property revaluation, board member Steven Geryk said the fiscal year 2021-22 budget could increase while keeping the tax rate flat, but spending would have to be reduced by about $480,000.

The Board of Selectmen, during a May 6 special meeting, unanimously approved a $113,250 reduction from its proposed budget. The reductions include $71,000 from group health and life insurance; $21,250 from building updates and repairs; $10,000 from trash disposal; $6,000 from computer software; and $5,000 from a line for FICA and Medicare spending.

Mitta said that much of the savings came from reductions in spending projections that were made when budget deliberations began toward the beginning of the year.

"Most of these ... were numbers that we knew we could cut, we just didn't know what those numbers were yet," Mitta said. "We knew we were going to come into savings."

Additionally, Mitta said, town Chief Financial Officer Lisa Baxter has projected an additional $45,000 in revenue for the upcoming fiscal year, meaning there would be an overall savings of nearly $160,000 from the number initially presented to the Board of Finance. That means, in order to keep the tax rate flat, the Board of Education and Library Board would need to approve cuts totaling about $320,000.

Moccio told the Journal Inquirer that the Board of Education would be considering additional reductions at Monday's meeting. He noted, however, his distress on the Board of Finance's timing for approval on the budget, which was presented to them on March 1.

"I have tried to be as transparent as possible with our budget since I've entered the Stafford Public Schools, so I am a little concerned about the timing," he said. He also told the Board of Finance at their last meeting that, while projected insurance costs from several months ago can likely be adjusted down, he could not immediately provide answers to the question of how the Board of Education could reduce its budget proposal by over $300,000.

For updates and coverage of Vernon and Stafford, follow Anthony Branciforte on Twitter: @ABranciforte_JI, Facebook: Reporter Anthony Branciforte, and Instagram: @JI_Anthony1.