Parents urge finance board to leave school budget request as is

With a major reconfiguration of Milford schools planned next school year, several residents at this week’s Board of Finance budget hearing urged the board not to cut any funds from the 2015-16 school spending plan.

“This is an extremely critical year for our district, said Kara Flannery of North Street.

As we undergo the much needed redistricting, expansion of our preschool program, and transition our schools to K-5 elementary, parents are looking towards fall with a mix of hope and anxiety,” Flannery added.

The Milford Board of Education has requested a 2.13% budget increase for next year, and School Supt. Dr. Elizabeth Feser said there are many costs associated with moving the elementary schools from a K-2/3-5 configuration to a pre-K to grade 5 arrangement.

Local parents have been pushing school administrators to return to what they call “neighborhood” schools since the schools were reconfigured in 2010 to save money.

Parents who attended Wednesday’s Board of Finance budget hearing at Milford City Hall told board members that the transition is a “massive undertaking” and any fund reductions could jeopardize the big move.

Board of Education member Jennifer Federico was one of five  people to speak about the school spending request. Only about a dozen people attended the hearing, and no one spoke for or against the city side of the budget proposal.

Federico asked the finance board to “fully fund the Board of Education budget,” and she explained that parents have expressed their “very strong desire” for a pre-K to 5 elementary school configuration.

Resident Carol Thomas also urged the board to leave the school spending plan untouched, as did resident Michael Brown, who described the Board of Education plan as “very well reviewed” by school administrators and the school board.

“I think it was great they were able to keep it down to 2%,” Brown said.

Parent Joanne Poffenberger told the finance board that the return to neighborhood schools requires more teachers; she also said reconfiguring the schools will make Milford’s education system better and therefore make the city better.

“We have to put in the investment to get the return,” Poffenberger said.

The budget plan

Taxes next year on the average Milford home with a market value of $311,000 are expected to go up about $150 under the 2015-16 proposed budget as it currently stands.

The budget hasn't been approved yet, but so far the school board is asking for a 2.13% increase, from $89.21 million to $91.11 million. Mayor Ben Blake is asking for a 1.9% increase in spending on the city side of the budget, from $109.12 million to $111.17 million in 2015-16.

Dollarwise, that means the school system is asking for an additional $1.9 million, and the city is asking for an additional $2 million. Combined, the city and schools are looking for an additional $3.9 million, from the current $198.34 million to $202.28 million, which is less than a 2% increase.

Budget process

The finance board will review individual department requests this month, and is scheduled to vote on the plan March 4. After the finance board votes on a recommended budget, the spending plan will move to the Board of Aldermen for another public hearing and additional department reviews.

The aldermen vote on a new budget and set a new mill rate in May.