Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The BOE has taken some real hits in the last couple years...

I wasn't going to post tonight, but I found the irony of this too tempting...

Apparently this is Councilman Ecke's proposed 2010 / 2011 operating budget:And here are his comments reported by the MRJs Jesse Buchanan:

"The Board of Education has taken some real hits in the last couple of years," said Democratic Councilor Michael Ecke.

Anyone else see the irony?

Regardless, it's good to see Mike making a proposal. Now I'm wondering if any member of the unusually large GOP caucus will be offering another alternative proposal? I doubt the Budget Chair would appreciate it. But then, the Budget Chair is not the most fiscally conservative member of the GOP caucus.

This could get interesting.

Personally though, I'm just hoping five Council members agree with me that the responsible course of action is to defund the position of Personnel Director and either increase funding for the schools and / or police... or simply reduce spending.

Tim White


Anonymous said...

I can appreciate your idea of eliminating that position, but who will do the work now?
It almost sounds like that person isn't doing anything and we should just cut them loose.
Someone will have to pick up the slack or will they have to hire an additional admin assistant to help cover the work load?
I am no in that office on a daily basis, as I am sure you aren't, just wanted to know how the work will get done.
I am all for it if it means not hiring another person down the road.

tim white said...

When I raised the issue during a budget meeting, the TM raised only one relevant concern - union contract negotiations. Those should all be done by June 30 and run for three years (or more), though negotiations should begin again before the current ones expire.

Furthermore, who is going to pick up the slack elsewhere? It seems to me that every department needs to cut back. The TMO is no different.

As for an add'l admin, I mentioned reorganizing the TMO. Maybe I'll explain my thoughts on that tonight.

James Trifone said...

Instead of minimizing what the democratic councilors are offering, consider the fact that, with the present education budget proposal, Cheshire is UNDERFUNDING education by $7.6 million relative to the State average level of education funding (e.g. $1565 less per pupil and there are a projected 4850 pupils for the 2010-11 fiscal years). Since the performance record (e.g. CMT's SAT's, CAPT scores) of Cheshire schools is FAR from average (top 20% or better than other districts)we are being grossly negligent and irresponsible in suggesting that we make further cuts to the Superintendent's budget. If anything we need to be increasing the education budget above and beyond what the Superintendent originally recommended to the BOE in an attempt to move closer to matching what the AVERAGE town in Connecticut spends. This is an embarrassment to say the least for a town that is one of the top 13% most affluent towns in the State.

Anonymous said...

Mr Ecke is not paying usual. The BOE budget in FY 2005 was $49.1 million. Under the numbers you have from Monday's budget meeting on your blog it looks like they will get somewhere around $60.3 million.
Since I went to school when they taught real math, I can subtract those numbers and see that the BOE will be spending $11.2 million dollars more in the coming year than they were just six years ago. That is a 22% increase in six years! And aren't there fewer kids in the system?
When does this escalation stop?
The Dem's are playing to the emotions of young parents and to the demands of the teachers union....of which their party is a wholly owned subsidiary. Ecke LOST the last election partly because of his support for the generous union contract when it came before the last Council. Does the man ever learn?
And it appears that the Dems want to take $500,000 from the town's "savings" account to pay for the teacher's salaries. Great. What are they going to do NEXT year when the salaries escalate again under the third year of the contract? Take $1 million from that account?
These people are dopes......but then again I can understand Adinolfi pushing for this since his wife's raise....and maybe her job....depends on the BOE getting the money.
Can you say, "Conflict of interest"?

James Trifone said...

The fact still remains that compared to the majority of other towns in the state (we are 143rd out of 166 in per pupil spending) we are STILL UNDERFUNDING education in Cheshire by $millions/annually. The teachers signed a contract with the BOE that included considerable increases in health care costs in exchange for the raise they received. Since the majority of teachers are already on the top salary step (they only received the salary increase without the step increment making it about 1.8% of the publicized 4.4%), the net effect of this plus the increased health care costs meant either a loss or slight increase in "take home salary" for the majority of teachers. Furthermore, due to filling positions vacated by retirements last year with younger and less expensive staff members, or eliminating them outright, the cost to the town was only a 0.38% increase. So Cheshire being one of the top 13% most affluent towns in the state being recognized as one of the top 20% school districts in the state is getting a good "Bang for the Buck". Due to years of underfunding education relative to the rest of the state, cutting the budget now will only, in the words of BOE member Mr. Sobel "eviscerate the system". Additionally, since our real estate values are very closely tied to the efficacy of our school system (ask any Realtor), by cutting the education budget to save a few more dollars each month for each taxpayer we will be jeopardizing our greatest asset: our home value. It sounds to me like being "penny wise and dollar foolish". We need a budget that is conceived with DOLLARS and SENSE.

Anonymous said...

You have to be careful comparing BOE per pupil spending from town-to-town. Some towns include the debt on school buildings as part of their per pupil costs. Other towns, Cheshire included, do not. Including this debt can drastically increase the reported per pupil spending and obviously this money has no affect on direct student learning or instruction.

Anonymous said...

I would ask a realtor if I'm going to sell my home but I intend to stay here for as long as I live so it makes no difference to me what my house is worth. Taxes are very important to many people so they can afford to stay here. If we keep raising taxes every year at what point will people not move here or be able to sell their homes because of high taxes? We are always compared to Madison and their mill rate is around 18 vs ours of around 26. Please give the taxpayers a break this year, we have been taking hits for many years

Anonymous said...

10:13 a.m. - -"If anything we need to be increasing the education budget above and beyond what the Superintendent originally recommended to the BOE in an attempt to move closer to matching what the AVERAGE town in Connecticut spends...."

Such logic. Will you next, suggest firing the superintendent because he wasn’t so greedy but only asked for a bit more then was needed as he does year in and year out?

Here is a thought. Maybe student performance does not increase with an increasing school budget. Maybe it actually decreases as spending increases. Looking at some of the various facts available one just has to wonder if this town's students who perform well at current funding rates would maybe perform less well as funding increased. Increasing funding to be closer to the state average could also result in local students performing closer to the state average. It is suspected that 10:13 wanted all to know that presently local students greatly outperform typical average CT state school children. 10:13 must believe that increased spending always results in increased student performance?

It is past time for this town to start cutting BOE budget bloat which has consumed more and more tax dollars every year for a very long time. At a time when our regional economy shows no signs of life, the state cannot find enough ways to collect enough taxes to remain financially viable, the number of students is heading down and many residents continue to see no significant pay raises year after year our minority council D member is looking to win more admiration from the Greedy Teachers Union of Cheshire. Possibly the lesson of how he gained a council seat was lost on the D?

Cut the school budget now and make the cut significant enough so that taxes remain constant or go down by about 0.25%.

James Trifone said...

I hear what you are saying about taxes. No one wants to pay higher taxes. However, with Mr. Ecke's proposal taxpayers would pay about $134 a year in taxes. that amounts to about $11/month for the average taxpayer. My 86 year old father and mother, who are on fixed incomes, pay more than that on Dunkin Donuts in a week. Also they pay a lot more in taxes where they live. $134/year would be welcomed by them. So the tax burden argument is very weak compared to what underfunding the school system might do to many of us who might wish to sell our homes in time. Again, to me it's penny wise and dollar foolish thinking.

Anonymous said...

Good job James a voice of reason.

Anonymous said...

When are the people who say "its ONLY $140 this year and $150 next going to finally realize that after 5 years this equates to a very LARGE increase. We cannot sustain these increases year after year. Also the argument about per student spending is rediculous lets take a look at HFD and NH and see what their per student spending is and I'm sure their students are outperforming ours. NOT!

Anonymous said...

The Dems/libs/members of the educated elite class are always talking about tax increases in terms of the cost of a cup of coffee. How does their wage increase equate...dinner for four, 5 nights a week for a year! Thats what your extra cup of coffee that you get to give up gets them. Heck, Mr Trifone expects his parents to do this.

Give us a break...its not the increase. Taxpayers pay their tax bill...not only the increase!

James Trifone said...

What was your home worth 10 years ago? What is it worth now? I bet it is worth A LOT more than the tax increases you paid during the last 10 years. Why has Cheshire been able to weather the loss in real estate value so much better than Hartford or New Haven or many other towns across the state? It might just have something to do with the fact that our school system has remained very effective despite very lean budget increases. In fact, Connecticut Magazine rated Cheshire #3 in education amongst towns 25,000-50,000 in population size and #4 overall in that category. However, as systems theorists have long known, a system can only buffer so much change before it collapses. Where will we be in another 10 years if we continue using your short-sighted, and may I say, self-serving vision? By the way, why don't you come out of hiding and state your name to the public?

Anonymous said...

Mr Trifone, at the top "step" in the current contract year a teacher is making $88,100 per year for 186 contract days.
Starting in July of this year this goes to 90,300. That works out to $485.48 per day of work.
Us poor slubs out here working a full year (say with three weeks vacation, normal holidays etc) work about 240 days. That means I have to make $116,516 a year to match what you make for a day's pay.
And you want the taxpayers to increase these amounts? Even if at the top salary steps you are "only" getting 1.8% raises you are still doing very well.
And as for your distress in paying more for your medical, go find your parent's last monthly SS statement and see what they are paying PER MONTH for their Medicare B coverage and compare it to what you are paying for your fully loaded, gold plated Blue Cross plan.
You should be ashamed of yourself.
PLEASE stop whining.

James Trifone said...

Check your postings Mr. Anonymous (still too embarrassed to acknowledge yourself), I'm not the one whining. I can see I'm dealing with someone with an axe to grind rather than someone who is open to listening to the facts. Consequently, I don't have any more time for your diatribe.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't anyone find it particularly odd that the only group the BOE has targeted for cuts is 16 teaching positions? If classroom education is top priority then why cut only teachers? Why hasn't anyone offered up athletics and/or other extra-curricular activities above teachers in the classroom? Or some combination of the two.

Couldn't freshmen athletics be eliminated instead? Don't we have an athletic director making 6 figures? It would seem to me that eliminating some sports programs would also eliminate the AD position and save a bunch of money.

Or is there little to no savings there? Seems odd this hasn't mentioned by the TC, BOE, Super, etc. Why not?

Anonymous said...

You go James!

Anonymous said...

The idea we are underfunding because we are 144 out of 169 is nonsense. We are the 20th top school district in the state. If we spend less and are rated so good then it could be due to a good school system. Spending on a per pupil average is not the measurement. If it was then Washington Dc and Bridgeport would have the best school systems. The time has come like it or not, the public can no longer afford to fund the education system as the education system would like. Get over it. Other than property values a school system brings no benefit to town it is in.Just remember for every person that wants to spend more money on education there is a person that chooses not to.

Anonymous said...

Justin Adinolfi gets his medical benefits from the school system. If this is incorrect then prove it. Justin's support of the education is a conflict of interest.

Bill said...

Mr. Trifone, It appears you fail to understand. It does not matter what the increase is per year to fund the education budget, it is unacceptable. There are several of us that do live in your world. Education of the children is not a priority as we do not earn a living in that field. People that made their living on education should be allowed to sit on the BOE. They cannot separate themselves from support of education vrs what is best for the entire community.

concerned parent said...

Interesting that Mr. Ecke's budget has a lower tax increase ($134) than Mr. Milone's ($157) and restores some funding to education. If you read Mr. Milone's budget the town has $250,000 more from the grand list and $500,000 less in debt service. That's $750,000 more the town has to work with. That justifies more cuts? If you don't think a quality school system adds value, look at the town's around us.

Anonymous said...

this is all about how much teachers make and how many kids should be in a classroom.

concerned parent said...

Re: "this is all about how much teachers make and how many kids should be in a classroom."
This is what Mr. Schrumm and his myopic view would have you believe. This is about property values and the future of our town and our children. If you want low taxes move to Mississippi. They have low taxes and the lowest SATs in the country.

Anonymous said...

"This is about property values and the future of our town and our children. "

Interesting that you rank property values first, children last in that sentence.

I think that all those concerned about schools, increasing budgets, additional education spending, etc. should get together and start a fundraiser.

Feel free to pitch in as much money as you want to contribute to an education fund to supplement the education budget. Similar to the the turf field fundraiser. Let the folks, the minority, that wants to spend more than the town can stomach do so out of their own pockets.

This would not burden the rest of the taxpayers with additional taxes to support something they don't want to support.

Wouldn't this be fair? can start another fund to save property values too! If it can be done for a turf field than it certainly can be done for education.

Anonymous said...

I went to a budget meeting a few years back and listened as all the parents got up and said they
"would gladly spent more on education". Well a gentlemen got up and gave Mr. Milone a check (I think it was for $200) and said he could cash the check if one of the parents in the room matched it. You know how many checks were received "0". If all these parents think that no expense is too high, I also say give a check to the BOE.

concerned parent said...

Re: "This would not burden the rest of the taxpayers with additional taxes to support something they don't want to support."
Let's see, you don't want to support education. How incredibly short-sighted of you. The high quality education is one of the things that makes this town great, not that money pit we call the town pool.

Anonymous said...

James, you offer a ray of hope in this cave of a blog post. Your facts are much appreciated and will help many of us parents make an informed appropriate decision about what is best for Cheshire. I plan to voice my concerns to my elected officials and if they don't listen there is always another election. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

If this James Trifone is the teacher at the high school, how does he get to make 5 postings to this blog on work hours?
10:13AM, 11:57AM, 1:42PM, 2:36PM, 3:18PM
That doesn't seem appropriate.

Anonymous said...


You guys say that every year...wait until the next election. Where were you at the last election when the Dems got an ass kicking for the sake of our schools?

Anonymous said...

I believe 9:47 makes a good point. I am sure you can check the ip address and see if someone was logged in from CHS. It makes me wonder if it really is him.
If it is,I am not so sure how much weight you can put on quotes from a teacher, whose union refuses to renegotiate their contract and who has financial interest in whatever the council decides to do.

I would be surprised if a teacher would actually write those comments on a public blog during school hours. I am wondering if it really is him.

Anonymous said...

Face it - this increase is just to pay teacher salaries. The $437K that Ecke wants to take from the fund balance is basically the amount equal to those "furlough" days - you know, the ones the teachers wanted to get paid back for.
It's all about teachers pay - not about the kids. So much for shared sacrafice.

As Mr. Squire simply stated - Cheshire spends $1 million a week on education. Isn't that enough?

If you want to spend even more, make your check payable to Town of Cheshire and direct it to whatever area of education you want. If the turf committee promises to raise $350K in 6 months, I'm sure the parents that really want to spend more will be able to do the same. But remember, spending more doesn't necessarily make it better.

Tim White said...

I've been buried the last two days (had my midterm for my class tonight). I was hoping to speak with Mr. Trifone tomorrow night actually. So I'll ask him if he's left comments here. But if he has, I won't ask him about the computer from which he accessed this blog. And I'm not about to get into checking IP addresses of anyone who identifies him/herself and is making legit comments here... regardless of the point that was made about using town property to access this blog.

The reality is lots of people have iPhones / Blackberries and all sorts of gadgets nowadays. And if one is allowed even just a bathroom break... then as a taxpayer I don't care what a town ee is doing on their own time, including on a bathroom break.

Anonymous said...

Just curious:
I saw that the average cost per student in a Catholic school is $4,755.
Are you saying that those students aren't getting a good education? I see many of them excelling.

The big difference is the teachers are there because they want to be. They aren't getting the high salaries of those in public schools.

Mr. Trifone feels that because Cheshire ranks 143rd that our kids aren't getting what they need.
How is it okay for the Catholic schools, but not the public schools?
If we spend more (i.e teacher salary increases), will our ranking move up?
Not sure I understand that mentality.

Anonymous said...

2:36 p.m. - -"What was your home worth 10 years ago? What is it worth now? I bet it is worth A LOT more than the tax increases you paid during the last 10 years. ..."

Interesting spin. What is a house worth if you don't have a receipt for its sale? Possibly you are more experienced in 'BUBBLE MATH' then most of this town's stable, long term residents who are not buying/selling houses like loafs of bread.

1:42 p.m. - -"I hear what you are saying about taxes. No one wants to pay higher taxes. However, with Mr. Ecke's proposal taxpayers would pay about $134 a year in taxes. that amounts to about $11/month for the average taxpayer."

Not only do you seem to excel in BUBBLE MATH you also seem clueless about the concept of "average." Possibly some of us are beyond average so our increase could be maybe $500 or a thousand more.

Beyond that though just look at what goes on. Student population is declining and with that decline the BOE needs to downsize. Town housing isn't selling like it once was either. In fact houses seem to languish for many months or sometimes years before a buyer shows up.

Maybe there are some real estate sales people who believe the massive slow down in town house sales is because town taxes are not increasing fast enough to keep the town's greedy teachers union ecstatic?

I'm just another local tax payer who wants the BOE budget to get decreased by the amount of the recently approved teacher pay raise. It isn't very much when one applies your BUBBLE MATH concepts.

So, BOE salary budget increases by 14% then it only requires laying off something like 20 entry level teachers to keep the budget flat year-to-year.

Out here in the real world of business enterprise during serious economic downturns layoffs are routinely used to balance budgets for companies which plan on surviving until better times come along.

Not Concerned w/Property Values said...

Hey Concerned Property Value Parent...7:49 offers a good suggestion. What are your thoughts about organizing an education fund drive to supplement the education budget? If you can afford to pay an extra $150 toward taxes than surely you afford to contribute same to an education fund. Why not try it?

Anonymous said...

Did anyone notice the full page ad in the Herald paid for by the teachers union?

They say "Cheshire ranks in the top 13% in the ability to support quality education." They mean..."pay up losers"

They cite "your child is allocated $1,565 less than the state average"
Allocated by me or the state of CT.

They say "Cheshire ranks 143 out of 166 towns in per pupil spending."
I say, GREAT!, keep up the good work...this proves more money won't result in a better output.


Anonymous said...

Who is reducing the BOE budget? I see over a 1M dollar increase from last year with a reduction in students. In the real world that would be a home run. What are the two D's thinking? Are they just trying to get more money? For what?? Please look at this budget closely. It's an increase in this economy. They are getting the students and parents all worked up for nothing. Most of these people never looked at or understand the budget let alone attend a budget meeting. Look at the details.