After hearing from the administrative team that finding $600,000 in savings for the FY19 budget was impossible without cutting programs, the Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) Board went back to square one.
At the December 19 meeting, Superintendent Brigid Nease and Michelle Baker, district director of finance and operations, gave the third draft of the incoming school budget. At the prior meeting the board voted to ask the administrative team to find $600,000 in savings which would have yielded a 3 cent reduction in the homestead tax rate.
Nease had warned board members prior to the report that the results would not be palpable. Nease repeatedly said that the team did not recommend the cutting of school programs to find savings.
Nease said that they offered retirement packages to teachers with 20 years of service. To date two of the teachers took the incentives: one teacher from Thatcher Brook Primary School and one from Crossett Brook Middle School. The subtotal retirement savings and attrition of these positions equal $114,562.
Nease and Baker noted that two to three other teachers are considering the incentive if the board chooses to move the incentive to 15 years. The board made an amendment to offer a contract after 15 years.
Baker said via email, “The average savings to the budget when a veteran teacher retires and a younger teacher is hired is approximately $20,000 and varies some based on the employee benefits, like health insurance, for the incoming and outgoing teacher.”
The district currently has four food service coordinators. The position could be run by one or two individuals. The board suggested finding a reconfiguration for the service. By cutting two positions the total savings would be $73,250.
Baker went over a food contract program that other districts have been adopting. Employees are no longer school district employees and the district would contract with contractors in the state.
Baker said other districts have found they were able to reduce to zero the general fund costs of food service and in some cases schools made money. Baker added $160,000 to that item in case the board wants to explore it further.
Nease and the administrative team discussed reconfiguring interventionists in the district. At the prior board meeting, Nease said that there is no money to be cut in supplies, and that at the $600,000 range, the board would be cutting people. Nease and Baker presented the board with $682,904 in savings if they cut all interventionists who are not funded through CFG funds. CFG funds are Consolidated Federal Grants which includes Title I, Title II and Title IV funding from the federal government.
"Students would still have their classroom teachers, still have their ELO block. Teachers would be providing intervention during an ELO block. Again, we are not recommending that," said Nease.
Moretown representative Linda Hazard said that if the district was to phase out the interventionists, the district would pay for those cuts in other ways.
At the first draft of the budgeting, removing world language from elementary schools was brought up. Instead of having world language in elementary schools, it would be introduced in seventh grade.
The total savings of cutting the program would be $167,615. Board chair Christine Sullivan commented at an earlier meeting that it would be a loss to the district after the board had worked hard to implement the programs.
Waterbury representative Alex Thomsen made a motion to go ahead with the first draft budgeted amount of looking at a tax rate of $1.63 including the recommendation of teacher retirement made by the administrative team.
As The Valley Reporter goes to press on January 9, the HUUSD Board is meeting to discuss equalized pupils and announce a tuition rate and small expenditure changes.