SOUTHINGTON — Board of Education members and supporters fired back at the Town Council during a budget hearing Monday night, responding to some councilors’ criticism of education spending at a meeting last week.
The council is considering a 2018-19 fiscal year budget and much of the discussion has centered on school funding.
Last week, Republican Councilor Michael Riccio suggested the town hire a consultant to look at potential savings in the Board of Education budget. Other councilors, including Democrat John Barry, also questioned whether the school district was focused on cost cutting.
Democrat Bob Brown, a school board member and former Southington High School teacher, said he listened to the discussion with “disappointment and embarrassment” to the “insulting tone directed at the Board of Education.”
Terri Carmody, school board vice chairwoman and a Republican, said councilors left the the impression that the school board was “hoodwinking” the public with reckless spending.
“There could be nothing further from the truth. We look very, very diligently at the programs, what we can keep, what has to be cut,” she said.
The Board of Finance unanimously approved a budget of $95,312,329 for the Board of Education last month. The council must decide whether to accept that figure or alter it.
Superintendent of Schools Timothy Connellan had sought a $97.3 million budget, an increase of about $3 million from the current year. In January, the school board approved a $96.8 million education spending plan. The finance board also unanimously approved a general government budget of $53.3 million.
Brian Goralski, school board chairman, said the district would likely cut teachers if money is not restored.
“That’s not a threat, that’s a reality,” said Goralski, a Republican. “Those are the real plans for how we’re going to find the $2 million.”
After the hearing, Riccio said he’s supported education while on the council but the traditional way of funding can’t continue with the state’s financial situation.
“The conversation (last week) was a discussion around fundamentally changing the way we provide education in the town of Southington. It doesn’t mean going after teachers,” he said. “The party at the state of Connecticut is over.”