Pubdate: Mon, 25 Mar 2002
Source: Middletown Press (CT)
Copyright: 2002 Middletown Press
Author: Stan Fisher
Bookmark: (D.A.R.E.)


CLINTON -- The question for school Superintendent Albert Coviello isn't 
whether the finance board's reduction of the 2002-03 school budget will 
mean the loss of staff in the coming school year.

The question for Coviello and the school board is how many, and from what 
positions in the school system.

The Board of Finance, faced with forecasts of declining revenues and 
increasing costs, cut $770,000 from proposed town and school budgets for 
the coming year, mandating a reduction in town and school services for the 
first time in years.

Town officials anticipate a $375,000 decline in combined income from 
investments -- a consequence of reduced interest rates -- and in state 
grants, even as they are confronted by a $483,000 increase in the cost of 
health and liability insurance.

Although the other increases in proposed town and school budgets generally 
were confined to contractural pay raises, they combined with declining 
revenues and unanticipated insurance costs to create a bottom line 
requiring a tax increase of more than two mills.

Believing voters would not accept such an increase in taxes, the finance 
board reduced spending for town and school operations and capital plans by 
$770,000 to lower the projected tax increase to 1.18 mills.

The $230,000 cut from the school operating budget "is definitely going to 
mean (the elimination) of a person or two," Coviello said. "We'll look at 
places to cut staff that will have the least impact on instructional 
programs ... what positions we can combine or do away with, or handle 
through attrition."

With no savings to be found in non-salary or fringe line items, Coviello 
said the school board could consider small cuts to the athletic budget for 
additional savings.

Because of other finance board cuts, Coviello and the school board also 
must consider the future of the school-based police officer's position and 
the 14-year-old Drug Awareness and Resistance Education program.

The finance board stipulated that the school resource officer, placed in 
the high school in 1999 by selectmen and the school board, would remain 
only if the majority of the officer's salary was funded by the school 
board, rather than the police department.

Already considering the elimination of positions, Coviello said, "My 
personal position is that I'm not interested in cutting teachers or 
programs to fund a police officer. That's a police function, whether he's 
at the school or down at the corner."

The finance board also cut about $9,000 from the police budget which would 
fund overtime costs incurred by police officers in DARE instruction, 
effectively eliminating the program with the recommendation that the school 
board consider alternative ways of meeting state mandates for drug education.

Coviello and police Chief Joseph Faughnan are considering ways to 
restructure the program, which has strong support from the community and 
First Selectman James McCusker Jr., as well as Coviello himself.
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