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School Board Finance Committee Rejects Superintendent's Budget

Members of the Windsor board of education finance committee decided the superintendent's proposed budget increase of 2.5 percent was too high.

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.

Michaela I. Fissel February 06, 2013 at 01:30 PM
Thank you very much Ingram and Panos - I commend you in your consideration of the struggling families... there are A LOT of us, the median income is just a figure, and does not accurately reflect the hardship of attempting to raise children in a decent community with a low income.
james walsh February 06, 2013 at 01:39 PM
No wonder why the public school system is so costly and has no accountability. We elect BoE members that have no business sense what’s so ever. The escalation of the cost per student over the last 10-15 years has more than doubled and yielded this town a massive property increase, yet only a few members of the BoE have the guts to hold the super intendant accountable to this massive increase in cost per student. The only issue that seems to get attention is the student achievement gap and the solution for 3 decades in Windsor has been to through money at the problem. To all the board members that want to spend more again this year what about the accountability of all the past years of increases? Thanks to the members that can look past the sensitive issue of education and look at the big picture about how irresponsible the system is about spending money. It’s easy to increase spending every year when on average its only 6% of the public that gets these irresponsible increases approved year after year. I had high hopes that Dr.Villar would be different, but unfortunately his budget proves he’s no different than any other municipal budget preparer. It’s as if they all went to the same school where it’s taught spend more and sell it to the public that votes that other towns are even spending more than we are. It’s amazing the public doesn’t pay attention to how poorly their tax money is managed. Part 2 to follow.
james walsh February 06, 2013 at 01:40 PM
This system is so broken and the members of the board that year after year can’t see to hold spending down for a few years to reverse the massive increase in cost per student in the public system should be ashamed of their ignorance to the spending curve and how it relates to performance.
meowkats4 February 06, 2013 at 02:05 PM
Vernon is looking at a 7.69 percent increase or $51 million Education Budget!!! Which I feel is so crazy such a big increase.
Malvi Lennon February 06, 2013 at 02:39 PM
Good for Kristin, Cristina, Paul and everyone else that realizes Windsor taxpayers are maxed out. However even after sending back this budget, we will most likely face an increase of some sort. That is why I would like to see zero-based budgeting implemented by the Town and the school. It is prudent to study and individually approve every line item of the budget. I believe this would uncover areas where there is waste and/or programs that are not producing results but we continue to throw money at it. Zero-based budgeting will help us better allocate the resources we already have. Zero-based budgeting will also eliminate excuses such as "This is a 2.5 percent increase, which is less than a lot of communities around here”. Many communities around here achieve much better results than we do. Still we are told repeatedly that we cannot compare our results to theirs because are children are different. If we cannot compare results then we should not be using their budgets to justify the reasonableness of ours because our taxpayers are different.
Henry G February 06, 2013 at 02:45 PM
Oh, I thought they voted "no" because it wasn't a big enough increase! Thanks for hanging in there BOE!
Windsor School Graduate February 06, 2013 at 05:16 PM
I agree..... This nonsense has to stop !!! I don't think there should be any increase. Let them get rid of some of the principals (top heavy). Run it a little more lean just like all of the other companies are doing. Yes, I said companies because essentially this is what our school system has become. Not the school system I went through. Too much of everything and poor management.
Kristin Ingram February 06, 2013 at 07:43 PM
For clarification, the Finance Committee finished its work so there will not be a meeting on Thursday, February 7th. That meeting was only if needed and has therefore been cancelled.
R Eleveld February 06, 2013 at 08:30 PM
I wrote a piece for others to ponder. A financial look at the Board of Education budget. http://windsor.patch.com/blog_posts/a-financial-look-at-the-board-of-education-budget As another poster said Education IS a business. It may not turn a "profit" but it needs money to operate, it produces a product (the education of our children, next generation) and it must be held accountable with quality measurements. We have an effective 6% (see article) increase in the budget. A further analysis using any matrix will yield a budget that is too large. Education is too important for all stakeholders, the children, parents, faculty, administrators, and the taxpayers. Children are our future, however throwing money at a problems does not assure positive results as we have seen with education. I am interested in respectful comments on my post.
james walsh February 06, 2013 at 11:08 PM
The budget should have been going down over the last ten years with a 15% decline in student population and recently closing a school. Board member Mr. Lockhart clearly doesn’t understand his responsibility is not only to the children but to the tax payers. The past BoE majority and super intendant sold the same nonsense to the tax payers its COLA, special ed, magnets schools and cost of doing business, well that is BS. Do the math Mr. Lockhart and hold the system accountable and stop being sold on it’s for the kid’s nonsense. If during the last decade the school system improved in its state ratings I wouldn’t be so upset. It’s hard to believe we now spend $16k+ to educate a first grader in this bottom quartile district while highly rated local private elementary schools get the job done for 1/3 the cost. Its amazing the 16k+ current expense per student isn't enough for the super intendant to manage our declining student population which is projected to continue for years to come. Mr Lockhart if it’s all about the kids the budget should be looked at base on per student cost and not base on a year over year total budget amount. If the public had been seeing the percentage of per student cost being proposed year over year during the past decade maybe they would be paying more attention and get off the couch to vote NO on budgets. Even a 0% increase to the total budget with the projected decline in student enrollment is a budget increase.
james walsh February 06, 2013 at 11:11 PM
Responsible BoE members will hold the high paid contracted aka manager Dr. Villar and the bloated administration to improved ratings before coming to tax payers for another increase. Its time the ALL the BoE hold the super intendant accountable to act like a business manager and make the cuts in the bloated staff needed to flatten the 10 year per student spending curve.(I think we have 2 assistant super intendants in addition to Dr. Villar OMG).
james walsh February 07, 2013 at 01:04 AM
Mr. Lockhart clearly you don't understand being the 26th worst district isn’t because we don’t spend enough money on the system. The town has doubled spending per student over the last decade and the ratings haven't gotten any better they've gotten worse. BTW I was at a forum along with only one other from the public. So why would I spend my time to speak at a meeting with the majority of the members with the same opinion as yours which is more of the same, spend more to solve the problem. Just where is accountability in this budget? I appreciate everyone’s service and have nothing against Dr. Villar or the staff. I do have a problem with how much they make and how many are employed and more importantly the lack of accountability. The district could handle a flat spending curve with a declining enrollment and have measures of improvement tied to merit increase. Does your employer allow you to be a poor performer and give you a raise? Where else in the business world other than in the public sector do you get to spend 60+ million a year, rate poorly and give the management a raise year after year? Apparently you find this to be the right course of action I don’t. We can agree it’s about the kids and that being the 26th worst district in the state is nonsense however I would say it’s pathetic. With your holding no one accountable Mr. Lockhart you are not serving your kids, my kids and the future kids to enter the system well its more of the same which is bad.
Malvi Lennon February 07, 2013 at 01:17 AM
I have to agree with James Walsh; very few people attend meetings because frankly it is a waste of time and energy. People who believe the more we spend the better the results control the BOE and the Council. Many taxpayers do not subscribe to that school of thought but their opinions and/or suggestion do not matter. Unless your comment is to agree with the majority speaking to the group is like listening to the rain falling. I am very hopeful that the newly formed Independent Town Committee will have a positive effect and help people realize that there is a another choice to the usual cadre. Once people feel heard, they are much more likely to become involved in the process.
a worker February 07, 2013 at 02:58 AM
Wow how refreshing. It's nice to see a school board that actually stands up to the superintendent rather than the other way around. I think the school board in Utica community schools located in Sterling Heights Michigan could learn a thing or 2 from your school board The superintendent that we have here is driving this district into the ground. if you ever hear the name Christine Johns.... RUN.
Catherine & Dennis February 07, 2013 at 11:39 PM
I agree with Mr. Walsh. We ARE NOT helping the children unless and until EVERYONE shows up to vote NO. We must force accountability.
Malvi Lennon February 07, 2013 at 11:55 PM
This is somewhat off topic but really, it is not because it is tax/budget related. Yesterday Malloy said he is going to do away with the car tax up to 28K. However, that revenue does not go to the state it goes to the Towns. Hence, the governor is doing away with a source of revenue at the Town level. How will this impact Windsor? Moreover, since the biggest line item on the town budget is schools will the BOE make sure Dr. Villar takes into account the loss in revenue when he submits his new budget.
common sense February 09, 2013 at 08:09 PM
Thank you to those who voted no on the BoE budget. Its plain and simple, more money does not equal better results. OBVIOUSLY!! you don't need to know math to understand that. People are struggling in this town, as they are everywhere. increasing the budget will increase taxes and force people to move from this town, bringing in even less revenue. Why would anybody ever think that Villar would not ask for more money, or Das Fuhrer Richardson would ever vote against what he wants... only way that anything will change is by voting against the Fuhrer, and voting against KLASE, and showing those that make these decisions that they WILL be held accountable. SOONER OR LATER, PEOPLE IN THIS TOWN WILL HAVE TO SAY ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!!
Malvi Lennon February 09, 2013 at 08:30 PM
Well said, the same holds true on the Town Council. Last year I spoke against the increase – but of course, both sides voted yes with one exception. After the meeting, I approached a council member and he said to me "it is not the council’s job to cut the budget. The council’s job to vote the budget up or down". His reply really upset me but after thinking about it, he was right. The CEO of a company does not tell his executives how to reduce the budget, he simply tells them that he/she wants to see let us say a 10% reduction. It is the responsibility of those execs to submit a complaint budget. It is the responsibility of the BOE and the Council to tell the Town Manager and the superintendent to reduce their budgets; it is the town manager and the superintendent who must find ways to do so. They know where the waste and inefficacies are – make them find them.
WR February 09, 2013 at 09:31 PM
I think the third party is a great idea. The problem is that unless they go after the Majority it will not make any difference. I will not be supporting the BoE budget and the Town Budget unless it is a -0-. I will also not be supporting my party this year. It is time to make some changes as our President has said.
R Eleveld February 09, 2013 at 09:37 PM
Your point is valid Malvi, very valid. This was a case of Malloy saying he is helping people and screwing the Towns, and no one seems to understand this eans the property tax payers. Why? Less revenue from car taxes means Windsor will have to raise MORE in PROPERTY TAXES! and that is assuming that Malloy does not cut Town funding somewhere else? Voters he is taking money from one pocket for his own politcal purposes while raisng your other taxes. He gets credit for lowering taxes, and the Towns get blamed for more property taxes that are a direct ($1 for $1) result of his actions. Doesn't anyone esle see the problems with this?

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