With all members of the Windsor board of education in attendance for Tuesday evening's finance committee meeting, it was crystal clear those in opposition to Windsor Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jeffrey Villar's proposed budget were in the minority; but, on the small three-member finance committee, it just took two votes to reject Villar's proposal and decide a large cut in funding was in need.
The finance committee voted 2-1 against sending the Superintendent's budget to the board of eduction for approval, instead opting to force the board to take a hard look at trimming down the 2.49 percent increase requested.
"I cannot in good conscience, send an increase of 2.49 percent to the board (of education)," said committee Chair Kristin Ingram (I), who told board members in attendance she believes Windsor families are struggling financially and cannot afford the $1.55 million bump requested by Villar.
Ingram expressed an interest in sending a budget to the board of education that represents a decrease of one full percentage point from the superintendent's proposal — a budget increase of 1.49 percent.
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Superintendent Villar, who was in attendance Tuesday, said he adamantly objected to the proposed cuts — namely cuts to administrative positions suggested by Cristina Santos (R), who represented the second vote in favor of the slash to the superintendent's proposed increase.
"If I feld we didn't need (the administrators we have), I would be the first to get rid of the," Villar told board members. "This is a 2.5 percent increase, which is less than a lot of communities around here.
"I know principals who come to school on Saturday just to work with students. I'm amazed we can say they're not needed. It doesn't represent the true valuethey have in the community."
Santos' proposal was to get rid of 1.5-2 vice principal positions in the district.
"I have said we are top heavy on the administrative side and I stand by that. We've had chronically higher V.P.'s than neighboring towns and districts... We have cut (paraprofessionals), tutors, teachers — those closest to the children — but I haven't seen any reductions from those at the top end — those farthest away from the children."
Minority Leader Paul Panos chimed in with cuts to a number of budget line items, including administrative staff cuts, transportation cuts and cuts to special education tuition.
Panos said he has worked out a plan to cut just over $300,000, which would bring the overall increase down to 1.73 percent.
While Ingram was not as specific with her proposed cuts, she was clear in her unwillingness to support a budget that asked Windsor residents to pay more.
Board of Education Secretary and finance committee member Richard O'Reilly (D) expressed his full support for the superintendent's budget and denounced a move to call for a one-percent reduction in the requested funding increase.
"I don't see anything that is over-budgeted or isn't needed," O'Reilly said, adding that he felt it irresponsible to suggest such a cut without plans to make specific cuts in the budget.
"I haven't heard one well thought out plan for a reduction. To pick an arbitrary percentage point is irresponsible. I will not support the motion," said O'Reilly.
The finance committee has a scheduled meeting on Thurs., Feb. 7, 2013 at 6:30 p.m. in the L.P. Wilson Board Room.
The board is scheduled to vote for adoption of an eduction budget, be it the superintendent's proposal or a re-worked version, on Tues., Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. in the L.P. Wilson Board Room.