By a majority vote, the Town Council decided to reduce the over $30 million Board of Education budget by $250,000 at its meeting Monday night.
The council can only determine how much to increase or decrease the board’s budget by and cannot decide where the cuts or additions should be made. In late January, the board with a 3.54 percent increase from last year.
The motion to cut $250,000 from the board's budget was presented by Majority Leader Philip Sylvestro, who said it was a "nominal reduction."
"And one that I feel the board can easily meet without impacting the quality of schools," he said.
Let Patch save you time. Get great local stories like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone every day with our free newsletter. Simple, fast sign-up here.
Larry deBear was the one councilor to vote against the motion.
"I find it ironic that the council has gone on record, asking the voters of Rocky Hill if they want to spend $45 million on bricks and mortar at the ," he said referring to the . "At the same time, we are being asked to take away the educational materials being used inside those bricks and mortar."
DeBear said he went through the presented by in January and did not find anything that needed to be cut.
The Board of Education added $161,437 to the original budget, which was to keep an elementary school teacher, to make the math supervisor a year-round position and increase the amount of money budgeted for SMART Boards. DeBear said if cuts were needed, he would support the original budget presented by Villar and nothing less.
According to Mayor Anthony LaRosa, the Board of Education has come back to council with a surplus nine out of the last 10 years. In last year's budget, there was surplus of $280,000, which was used for various projects.
"Over the last few years the Board of Education has faired better than the town," LaRosa said. He added that he would cut an additional $50,000 to $75,000 from the board's budget if he had the support from fellow councilors.
DeBear said he has "no way of predicting a surplus."
"I don’t happen to have a crystal ball," he said.
In recent years, the council and board have tried to "keep spending in check," because they did not want to “sock” residents when economy was down, deBear said. With the economic trend headed upward, he said he feels it is time to "catch up on items that have been delayed."
During public comment, three residents spoke in favor of board's budget. One of them was former Board of Education Chairman William MacDonald who said people move to Rocky Hill for the schools and it is the town's job to maintain the educational system.
"I ask you to move the budget as submitted, do not make any cuts to it and put a priority on education," he said.
Councilor Joe Kochanek said the board, administration and teachers are using their "money smarter," which is leading to test scores improving.
"I believe throwing money at a problem will not solve it," he said.
Town Council Member Barbara Surwilo agreed with Kochanek and said "Rocky Hill is cooking academically."
"We are managing the system in a conservative budget in such a way that academically we are well above the state average," she said. "The Board of Education and teachers can stretch a dollar."
Once the mill rate has been officially set by the council, the Board of Education will hold a special workshop to discuss what changes will be made to its budget. The meeting will be open to the public.