The Board of Education has asked administrators to reduce next year's school budget by at least $300,000.
The request was made at Wednesday night's board meeting after a lengthy discussion over the $35.58 million budget proposal presented to the board on Feb. 20 by Superintendent Susan Viccaro.
The $300,000 cut would reduce the 2013-2014 budget's overall net increase from 4.39 percent to about 3 percent over current spending. The board also asked administrators to consider $500,000 in reductions.
Prior to the request, the board discussed several areas where savings might be found including reducing staff to compensate for declining enrollment.
"I grapple with, from 2010-11 to today and projected next year, we're down in enrollment about 160 students and I don't think the budget acknowledges that," board member Robert Fulton said.
Fulton is chairman of the board's finance committee which has spent several meetings discussing the impact of last year's demographic study which predicted a 20 percent decline in student enrollment in District 13 by 2021.
One way the board could cut costs, he suggested, would be to consider reducing staff by increasing class sizes. While Fulton stressed that the board had no intention of adjusting the district's policy on class size limits he said between 30-40 percent of classrooms in the district are currently below district class size limits.
Board member Joseph Ochterski said smaller class sizes "tend to be electives, and classes for students with lower levels of ability."
"Those classes tend to need to be smaller," he said.
Reductions resulting from declining enrollment at the elementary school level are included in the budget, Viccaro said. Her proposal eliminates a kindergarten teacher position, as well as a 1-2 teacher and fourth grade teacher.
Enrollment is expected to remain steady at the middle and high school level for at least a few more years, Viccaro told the board.
Board members Eileen Buckheit and Nancy Boyle suggested the district consider holding off on hiring more staff, referring to the proposal in Viccaro's budget to add six part-time tutors and move two 10-month support staff members to 12-month positions.
Buckheit also cautioned that although student enrollment is declining, the number of students requiring tutoring or those with special needs is increasing.
"That's an increase that's not going to go away," she said.
The school board will meet again on Wednesday, March 20 and on March 27 before sending the budget to a public hearing next month.
Editor's Note: The BOE also discussed the possibility that the district could recoup $282,000 in transportation revenues eliminated by Gov. Malloy's proposed budget. Check back with Patch for the story.