Bridgeport BOE within striking distance of a balanced 2018-19 budget
BRIDGEPORT — The Board of Education may be within $600,000 of a balanced 2018-19 budget plan.
The board’s three-member finance committee voted 2-1 on Wednesday to accept a list of proposed cuts that would seal a good portion of the $2.1 million budget gap that remains for the new fiscal year that begins in July.
At one point the school board was $13 million from squeezing needs into a $247 million budget for about 21,048 students. Still outstanding is a proposal save $600,000 by asking teachers and administrators to take a furlough day or defer a scheduled longevity payment. That appears unlikely to happen.
In a text message to a board member, Bridgeport Education Association President Gary Peluchette said the union’s executive board does not support any furlough days or delayed payment.
“Members felt public statements from some BOE members insulted teachers who have dedicated their careers to the service of Bridgeport students,” Peluchette said.
Other central office cuts being recommended would eliminate an assistant director of Information technology, and collapse four subject area director positions into two. The literacy and early childhood director jobs would be combined, as would the math and science directors. Three special education administrators would also be eliminated.
Walking distances for students in grades 5 through 8 would increase from one to 1.25 miles, saving $548,737 alone, under the plan. In addition, the number of in-school suspension officers would be reduced from 18 to 12, the security staff would shrink from 83 to 81 and $26,410 would be cut from copying costs.
The recommendations now goes to the full board, although all nine members of which were part of the discussions on Wednesday. There seemed to be general consensus despite concerns from several board members over the planned consolidation of the math and science director positions.
Board member Joe Sokolovic worried about how science would fare if math and science director positions were merged, especially with new state standards in science.
“I suggest we find another cut to make,” said Sokolovic. He proposed cutting an additional assistant superintendent. There are four now and the board previously agreed to cut one in the new school year. One assistant superintendent has already submitted his resignation.
Board member Chris Taylor, a member of the finance committee who voted no to the recommended cuts, advocated cutting two additional assistant superintendents but couldn’t get a second. Sokolovic’s idea also was not endorsed by the committee.
Schools Superintendent Aresta Johnson said her plan is to combine math and science under the leadership of the current math director, Tito Planas.
“He has moved the math scores forward ... and has solid plans in place and follows through,” Johnson said. “In science, I think, we have to be much more aggressive than we have been. ... This is an opportunity for us to turn the tide.”