STAMFORD — The Board of Finance voted Thursday to cut $1.7 million from the school district’s budget request for next fiscal year.
Finance board member Dudley Williams thanked Superintendent of Schools Earl Kim, who was in the room along with most Board of Education members, for putting together a responsible spending plan, but Williams said his panel found potential savings after examining the schools budget for weeks.
“I don’t think that’s a horrendous amount,” Williams said. “I feel comfortable about the work we’ve done to come up with these reductions… We have to make decisions. We have to make tough choices.”
Only two Board of Finance members voted against the cut — Sal Gabriele and Shelley Michelson.
The reduction leaves the schools’ proposed budget at $269.7 million, a 2.2 percent increase over the original budget allocated for the current fiscal year. But when considering recent adjustments to the 2016-17 budget, which went up last month because of a change in the post-employment benefits account, the increase is of 1.6 percent.
The spending plan could face further cuts by the Board of Representatives, which is expected to vote on the budget next month.
Most school board members and several central office administrators who were in the room gasped in disbelief when the cut was announced.
“I think it’s fair to say the board is very disappointed,” Board of Education President Geoff Alswanger said. “We put together a very fiscally responsible budget, one of the lowest in 15 years.
“I think we’ve done a very admirable job of balancing both the needs of students (with challenges) and meeting the needs of high-achieving students and that balance only becomes harder with actions like this,” he added.
Last year, the school board requested a much larger increase — 5 percent — but was only granted a 3.5 percent increase.
Gabriele, who opposed the cut, urged his colleagues to focus reductions on the city budget. But his motion to cut $4 million from the city plan failed.
“We need to focus more on the city side,” Gabriele said. “I think the Board of Ed has come in at a reasonable amount this year.”
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