April 12, 2006
By RACHEL GOTTLIEB, Courant Staff Writer
Hartford's school board voted 5-2 to approve a $215.9 million budget Tuesday evening, sending along to the city council a spending proposal that would increase costs 3.2 percent for 2006-07.
If the city council approves the budget, spending would increase $6.6 million.
Board member Pamela M. Richmond asked Superintendent of Schools Robert Henry how much school principals had asked for that Henry didn't approve. Henry said principals requested $7 million more than he included in the budget.
A few categories account for most of the increase.
Utilities are expected to rise by $1.13 million, or 13 percent; instructional supplies and textbooks by nearly $1 million, or 19 percent; and transportation by $1.5 million. About $2.6 million of the budget increase is for contracted salary increases.
New positions in the budget, which takes effect July 1, include four security guards to work at schools that have been enlarged to include middle school students, one new full-time and one part-time social worker. Four part-time assistant principals would be boosted to full time.
The district also would add 39 new positions for teachers and other staff at new or growing magnet schools, but salaries for those jobs would be covered by state and federal grants, said Julio Molleda, the district's executive director for finance.
Mayor Eddie A. Perez, board chairman, was not present for the board vote because he is in Minneapolis researching economic development strategies to see how they can be applied in Hartford. Perez also missed the public hearing on the budget.
Andrea Comer and Sharon Patterson-Stallings, both elected to the board, cast the dissenting votes.
Comer said she didn't think the board or the public had enough time to study the budget and ask questions. The few parents and teachers' union officials who attended the public hearing on the budget last week registered the same complaint.
Comer also questioned why the district advertised for a new assistant superintendent for student support services but didn't include the job in the budget proposal.
Henry said that he didn't put the position in the budget because it's a return to an old position rather than a creation of a new job. Last spring, Henry said, he elevated the job of director of special education to assistant superintendent because of the district's massive project returning all special education students to mainstream classrooms. Now that the district has some experience with mainstreaming, he said, the top special education position will be reduced to a directorship.
Residents will have a chance to comment on the proposal on April 26, when the city council holds a public hearing on the proposed city budget at Bulkeley High School.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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