When nearly 22,0000 students go back to New Haven Public Schools at the end of the month, the district’s budget deficit will be smaller than at the start of summer break, school leaders said Friday morning during a press conference at Wilbur Cross High School.
Working with Mayor Toni Harp (D), the Board of Alders, Board of Education and teachers’ union, Superintendent Dr. Carol Birks said they have been able to reduce the major deficit by more than $10 million.
“It is our legal responsibility so we have to make critical decisions to close the budget,” Dr. Birks said.
By closing three schools, making staff reductions and other difficult decisions, New Haven Public Schools now have an $8.4 million deficit. That budget shortfall was more than $19 million in March.
“We have to make decisions that may hurt just like in your own households,” Birks said.
NBC Connecticut asked the superintendent if that could mean more layoffs of teachers and staff.
“So ideally I want to say I hope not,” she said, “but I can’t say yes or no at this point cause we’re continuing to look and see how we can make certain adjustments.”
As of today, the number of full-time employees that won’t return to work is down from 36 to 32, Birks said, adding the number continues to fluctuate.
To make up for some of the guidance counselors that are losing their jobs, Dr. Birks said the district added five new social workers.
“We’ve made sure that our high schools are adequately staffed in terms of school counselors,” she said, “and we have provided each elementary school with a social worker to meet students social emotional needs. We did not have that across the district.”
Parent Andrew Conroe said he was pleased with his daughter’s kindergarten teacher at a New Haven Public School.
“The more money that’s flowing into the public schools the better,” he said.
But the reality is the school district where his daughter is about to begin first grade is still in the red, and the superintendent said more cuts will need to be made.
“I think it depends on wise cutting and what they’re cutting. I don’t want to see things like teachers and arts and music and guidance counselors cut out for the sake of saving money,” Conroe said.
The district also eliminated 14 administrative positions by reassigning most of them to new roles, Birks said.
Students go back to New Haven Public Schools on Aug. 30.