The Board of Education has sometimes trimmed School Superintendent Greg Florio’s budget before sending it to the Town Council in the past. This year, in a rare move, it did the opposite.
The school board voted unanimously Tuesday night to add $350,000 to Florio’s proposed $2 million increase for next year, saying the money was needed to tackle repairs at the town’s aging school buildings.
The move brings the total budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year to $64.9 million. The money added by the board will go toward the maintenance and equipment accounts.
“I think it behooves us now to put some money into these accounts and take care of some of these issues before we have lots of emergencies,” said board member Cathy Hellreich, who made the motion to amend the budget.
Let Patch save you time. Get news like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone every day with our free newsletter. Simple, fast sign-up here.
The decision came after Florio and Director of Management Services Vincent Masciana gave a presentation showing how the district had overspent its maintenance budget to the tune of nearly $2 million since 2005 because of unexpected repairs. School officials were able to cover the costs by taking money from other line items in the operating budget.
“When you do that, something else either gets deferred or doesn’t get purchased to support our programs,” Florio said.
Finance Committee Chairman Tony Perugini said that while town schools are not falling apart, the district has been putting maintenance on the backburner.
“This amendment is specifically to make sure we’re getting ahead of maintenance. In fact, we’re trying to catch up,” he said.
Florio said during his 22 years in Cheshire schools he has never seen a school board add money to a superintendent’s budget request.
“This is a very courageous thing,” Florio said.
While salaries and benefits make up most of the budget increase, Florio’s budget also called for more money for technology and professional development as well as $45,000 to raise the daily rate for substitute teachers.
The budget approved Tuesday did not include money for initiatives such as all-day kindergarten or an expansion of the World Languages program, both of which have been under discussion.
The budget now goes to Cheshire Town Manager Michael Milone and then to the Town Council, which has historically reduced the budget.
Several board members acknowledged that keeping the budget intact would likely mean higher taxes.
“I can tell you right now, we’re not going to get the full $2.4 million from the town, unless the entire town is willing to make a sacrifice,” Perugini said.
Board President Gerry Brittingham said he was “a little tired of listening to the excuse of the burden on the taxpayers.” He said because Cheshire has made a conscious decision to remain a bedroom community -- unlike more commercially developed neighboring towns -- the bulk of the tax burden is going to fall on homeowners.
“I don’t want to pay the taxes. I see the value of what we’re paying,” he said.
The Town Council has until April 17 to approve the budget.
Make sure to like Cheshire Patch on Facebook and follow on Twitter for breaking news, daily updates and more!