CPS Budget: Impending Staff Cuts and Declining Enrollment

Budget Hearing Tonight, April 5th

Caroline King, Writer/Editor/Reporter

In the past couple weeks, students and other community members may have heard some buzz about the Board of Education school budget for the 2023-24 school year. The school budget rises every year, which is expected due to fluctuation in prices and salary increases. However, It is becoming increasingly difficult to draw up a budget that meets all the demands of the school district while staying within the limited revenue being received from the town. On top of that, prices are swollen by inflation, giving less wiggle room for different portions of the budget. This budget year there are some changes that will be noticeable to students, that change is staff cuts. 

Every year, superintendent Maryann O’Donnell has to propose a budget to the Clinton Board of Education. This budget allocates funds to the salaries of teachers, social workers, guidance counselors, custodians, maintenance professionals, para educators, school nurses, and administrators. It also funds any maintenance, school supplies and materials, books, technology, utilities, and any other aspect that is needed to uphold a school district. The Harbor News  budget article written by Eric O’Connell quoted superintendent O’Donnell discussing the planned capital projects: “The capital budget request supports Eliot HVAC boiler system controls upgrades, Joel bathroom upgrades, student and classroom technology replacement, security and network upgrades, flooring replacement, painting at Eliot and Morgan, and school campus physical upgrades for safety.”  

Once the budget is reviewed and then approved by the Board of Education, the town council must approve it. After that, it goes to the town to be voted on in the referendum every May. 

For the 2023-2024 school year, Clinton Public Schools and the budget committee held several meetings in January 2023 to review and discuss budget requests prior to the presentation of the Superintendent’s Proposed Budget. 

On January 23, 2023, the Superintendent presented the proposed 2023-2024 operating budget of $38,572,877  which is an increase of $783,641 or 2.07% to the Board of Education. According to the US Inflation Calculator, the annual inflation rate for the United States is 6.4% as of January 2023. 

During COVID-19, there was certain funding and grants available to hire more teachers. Now, that grant money from COVID-19 is no longer available. Morgan School Principal Keri Hagness: “The state was giving us funds to be able to offset the impacts of Covid during that time, and that was a 2-year grant, and we knew eventually that funding was not going to sustain.” This is the cause for some of the staff cuts that will happen in the 2023-2024 school year. It was initially planned that these positions would be reduced. 

However, not all the teacher staff cuts are rooted from an absence of this COVID-19 funding. Some teachers that were hired with that grant funding are now needed in their departments, and therefore will remain in their positions. There are other Morgan teachers who started teaching more recently, who were not grant hires, whose positions are being eliminated. Some of these teachers are moving to different buildings, replacing teachers who do not have tenure. 

So far, the presented budget tell us that 9.2 positions will be cut across the entire district (the “.2” being a part-time position). In total, 4 grant positions will be reduced, along with 5.2 operating staff positions. That being said, at the town council meeting on March 8th, town council decided to ask Mrs. O’Donnell to cut more from the budget. She was advised to reduce the budget by $350,000 before the budget is introduced to the public hearing on April 5th. The BOE does not have to cut this amount from the budget until after April 5th. The town council may hear all the testimony of the public, which ultimately may sway their decision on whether they require Maryann O’Donnell to cut the amount proposed. Morgan School Teacher and formal Town Council Member Eric Bergman stated, “The town council took the unusual move of asking the Board of Ed to reduce their budget by $350,000, using the reason of a surplus as their rationale.” A surplus is the amount of money that isn’t used by the district at the end of the school year. These are excess funds that are then kicked back to the town.

Revisiting the budget and cutting $350,000 would not be an easy task. “Areas to revisit would be contracts, requests for resources and instructional materials, adjustments to extracurricular experiences, and overall staffing needs. The budget approved by the Board of Education in February had already exhausted all the possible reductions that they felt could be done and still meet the current needs of students, maintain the integrity of the district’s mission, and effectively implement the adopted strategic plan. If the cut remains at that level, the commitment of the board would be to reduce the budget with the goal of maintaining the current levels of staffing and student extracurricular programs,” explained BOE Chair Erica Gelven to The Harbor News in an article published on March 24.

The public hearing regarding the town and school budget will be on April 5th at 6:00 pm at the town hall.

Staffing adjustments were also necessary considering the declining enrollment and class size. Knowing that some of these adjustments are a necessity, The Board of Education’s goal is to still maintain the same opportunities and class options for students. “We knew this was coming,” said Mr. Bergman, referring to the imminent staff changes due to declining class size.

Next year, five teachers who currently teach at Morgan will not return. However, as of right now, Morgan is only losing two total teaching positions, being that there will be teachers moving up from Eliot to fill three of those Morgan positions.

The following Morgan teachers contracts will not be renewed: Science teacher Mariana Apergis, English teacher Eric Peterson, Social Studies teacher and Morgan alum Max Ames, Mathematics teacher Noelle Pollard, and World Language teacher Amy Fortin.  Only two positions are being eliminated: the world language and mathematics positions. The other position will be filled by teachers who will be moving from Eliot. 

Also in The Harbor News article, Mrs. Gelven mentioned some of the important focuses on the 2023-24 budget:“Board of Education members carefully considered requests from staff and administration, reviewed needs, discussed parameters for budget formation, examined backup and clarifying information, and made decisions. The budget process was influenced by a primary focus on the continued needs of our students for academic and social-emotional recovery as well as inflationary pressures on contracted goods and services. The budget supports the implementation of the district’s strategic plan, and the request ensures that we can continue to meet the needs of our students,” 

Students in Clinton are directly effected by the budget, and it’s important to know how it works and what money is going where. More importantly, it’s important to know why the money in the budget is needed in certain areas. “The more informed and aware we are of the different things that are happening in terms of the school is super important, and budget is a big piece of it.”  Said Keri Hagness.