Layoffs are coming to Hartford Schools.
The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters broke the story weeks ago, and on Tuesday, the Superintendent of Schools presented her budget to the Board of Education, detailing the cuts.
"It's a lot of money, and that's going to affect the quality of education we give to kids. So that hurts. This is painful," said Richard Wareing, Hartford BOE Chairman.
Painful because Hartford schools must battle a $30 million budget gap. Of that, $20.1 million is from increased costs, and $10.1 million is from decreased revenue.
The superintendent's budget proposes eliminating 235.8 positions to save more than $15 million. Out of that number, 96.5 are teachers. Superintendent Beth Schiavino-Narvaez told the BOE that with things like resignations and retirements, far less staff will actually be laid off.
"While this is a very difficult budget, it's not hopeless. We continue to invest in our priorities and serve our children and families as best we can," said the superintendent.
The superintendent says they're facing a perfect storm which includes 8 years of flat funding, decreasing special funds, and increasing needs.
She outlined that increasing costs mainly comes from contractual salary increases, out-of-district tuition, and fringe benefits. To deal with the budget crisis, along with cutting staff, she reduced reliance on professional contracts and services, reduced insurance costs (helped in part with the proposed reduction in staff), and lowering funds for equipment, computers, supplies, and other accounts that fund things like travel and meetings.
While the cuts are significant to staff, Hartford Federation of Teachers Union President Andrea Johnson fears it may not be the end.
"What bothers me the most is I think more cuts could take place," said Johnson.
While officials say the city of Hartford cannot legally give less money to education, the state certainly could as it grapples with its own financial crisis. Such a move would widen the hole Hartford Public Schools is desperately trying to fill with layoffs and cuts.
"If less money is ultimately appropriated by the General Assembly, that number is going to go up. The number of layoffs is going to go up," said Wareing.
The school district also consolidated Bulkeley High School, but the superintendent pointed out that the consolidation had nothing to do with the fiscal issue. Instead, she said it took place because of declining enrollment.
At the budget presentation, BOE Secretary and Finance Chair Craig Stallings expressed frustration that there is so little time for the Board to look over the budget.
"The Board should have had more input on this," said Stallings.
It's a complaint the teachers' union shares, saying they had one meeting weeks ago with the superintendent but learned nothing. They felt they were left out of the process.
"The teachers are the ones who work with the children in the schools every day. They know the importance, the ups and downs, the happy and sad. Those are the folks you want to talk to," said Johnson.
BOE workshops are scheduled next week. A public hearing takes place on May 3rd, and the BOE is scheduled to adopt the budget on May 17.