ROCKY HILL - The removal of a school psychologist position from a Superintendent level school budget request headlined a short list of reductions being considered by the Board of Education in order to bring the proposed expenditure to an increase below 4 percent at the request of Mayor Claudia Baio and Town Manager John Mehr.
The reductions would bring an original 4.5 percent request down to a 3.9 percent proposed increase. The Board will take the final vote on the request-to be submitted to the Town Council-when it meets again in March.
The Board discussed the elimination of the line items from their request at a workshop held last Thursday. The cut would take out a $26,000 tech support staffer, and $51,000 worth of other support positions.
The purchase of desktop computers was also on the list-at $56,000 in savings-but the Board decided to leave that in the proposal on the advice of Finance Director Chuck Zettegren, who expects an insurance surplus to be enough to make that up.
But the school psychologist-advocated for by Superintendent Mark Zito as a relief hire to address what he described as a growing need driven at least partially by increasing enrollment-was the priciest line item, at $88,000.
In a presentation given the week before, Zito said that the district has not hired a psychologist or social worker in more than 10 years.
“I know our population has increased and eventually we will need that-it’s something I’m fairly bothered by,” said Board Chair Frank Morse.
Board members and Zito alike lamented the possible cuts, stating what they feel is a need for the items-particularly the technology support position-but said that they understood the need for leaner budgets given the looming threat to municipal aid and the state’s own financial woes.
“I understand the desire to get below 4 percent, but this was half a position,” Zito said of the tech support staffer. “The idea was to take an existing part time person and make it full time.”
The district currently has 660 devices to every person, according to Morse.
As for the desktops, Board member Jennifer Allison recalled the Board’s decision to forgo what is known as a replenishment purchase during the last budget cycle because they were buying Chromebooks.
“I don’t like breaking the refresh cycle-we did it last year, so we’re already behind,” she said.