At Monday's Common Council meeting the mayor delivered his budget address and proposed a less than 1% increase in the Middletown school budget. The Board of Education and the superintendent have suggested that a 5.4% increase is more appropriate. The following are a set of numbers important to anyone who supports Middletown schools.
17. The number of teachers who will be laid off (and not through attrition), if the budget is passed at less than 1%. Letters have already been mailed to non-tenured teachers telling them their jobs are at risk.
22. The percent wage increase proposed for one of the mayor's top staffers. This 22% increase for one staffer is the highest, but all other highly-paid staffers in city hall will be receiving wage increases of at least 3.35% in the mayor's budget, even as 17 teachers will be laid off. For the record, the mayor is suggesting his chief of staff move from $65,000 a year to $80,000 annually.
6. The number of middle school students representing the "declining enrollment" over the past four years which the mayor has cited as a reason to underfund Middletown schools. At the elementary school level it's less than 1 student per class, and at the high school in those four years, the population will decline by 10 students. At the elementary schools there's a more significant decline projected of nearly 200 students, but divided over all the elementary school classes, it represents about half a student per classroom. In addition, the population of teachers has declined over those years by 20 positions.
2.5. That's the cap placed on annual municipal spending starting in 2017 by the legislature. It will cripple the ability of towns to deal with regular inflation and cuts in state spending. Coupled with a redistribution of car tax by the state, this plan could be disastrous. The 2.5% cap was created without a public hearing by the state legislature. Board of Education chair Vinnie Loffredo
recommends that all residents call their legislators to demand that the cap be rescinded. What's more, the State of Connecticut has never paid its full and obligatory share of education funding, or the the payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT), for non-profit properties in a town.
3. The number of A's in our Triple A bond rating. A bond rating of AAA from Standard and Poors means that the city has a good record of paying back loans, and can borrow money at lower rates. It means the city pays less for what's known as debt service. The mayor favorably compares our bond rating with cities like Greenwich, Avon and Fairfield Unfortunately neither our schools nor our school funding compare as favorably. Greenwich schools are ranked number 4 by niche.com, Avon is 17, Fairfield 20 and Middletown 58. The average Connecticut percent of city budget spent on education is 57.4%, in Middletown it's 49% (debt service included), in Greenwich it's 57.5, in Avon it's 63.2, and in Fairfield it's 55.93%.
17 (again). The percentage of total city budget increases being allotted to the BOE. The mayor is proposing total city budget increases of $4 million. Yet he's only allotted $700,000, or 17% of the total increase. So while the Board of Education contemplates laying off 17 (that number again) teachers, the mayor is giving raises to his top staff, and allowing for significant additional expenditures of $3.3 million, on the city side of the budget
5. The percent reduction in cost of insurance of the highest paid city hall staff. Those staffers were paying 19% of health insurance premiums previously, and are now only obliged to pay 14%. In addition these staffers are allowed to retire at age 52, and will be allowed to keep city insurance at the employee cost.
10. The number, in millions of dollars, that have been requested by the Board of Education in the past four years, that has been cut from requested school budgets granted by the mayor and Common Council.
8. The per cent drop over the past year in median sales price for homes in Middletown (according to Trulia). The value of homes is directly linked to the quality of schools, and the perceived quality of schools in a town. If you don't have kids in school, and you think paying taxes for schools is a drag, think about what happens to your most important investment, your home, if we don't continue to invest in quality schools.
One final number. There are 12 Common Council members who will conduct the ultimate vote on the city and Board of Education budget. Their email addresses are available on the city website. If 200 concerned parents wrote emails to each of the Council members, that would be 200 good reasons to reconsider the mayor's proposal.
NOTE: The Board of Education will hold a special budget meeting at Middletown High School's library on Monday April 11, 6:30 PM to explain the budget and solicit recommendations and comments from residents.