July 21, 2019

Commentaries on the Proposed 2019-20 Region 18 Budget

We received a request from Old Lyme resident Mona Colwell to publish the statement she read at the Lyme-Old Lyme Schools Board of Education meeting last Wednesday, May 1.  Her statement (printed below) relates to the proposed 2019-20 Lyme-Old Lyme Schools budget on which the citizens of Lyme and Old Lyme will vote in a referendum on Tuesday.

Since the referendum is so close, we invited Lyme-Old Lyme Schools Superintendent Ian Neviaser to respond to the statement. He explained that he did not wish to do so as he is bound under election rules not to give an opinion on a matter being voted on by the public within seven days of that election.

In the interests of equity and independence to which we always attempt to ascribe, we are therefore publishing a statement on the budget given to us by Superintendent Neviaser back in February, which reads as follows:

“I am pleased that the Board of Education has voted to support the fiscally responsible budget that we proposed.  The 2.29 percent increase is one of the lower budget increases our communities have seen and is far lower than all of our surrounding districts.  This budget will continue to provide a top notch educational program to our students and communities with enhancements to what is already one of the strongest districts in the state.”

Colwell’s statement made May 1 to the Region 18 Board of Education reads:

“Four months ago, you, the Board, accepted an idea of pre-k expansion in the upcoming budget on a premise that it could work in the budget. However, you have been given misinformation about this proposed pre-k expansion.
You were told that the student population and the numbers of sections at Mile Creek were decreasing – they are not.
You were told that this was a way to avoid letting teachers go – however we now know this expansion requires increasing the number of teachers and Instructional assistants for Region 18
The data you were presented in support of pre-k expansion is not comparable to our area – there is no data to support the benefits of a 5 day, all day pre-k program for the socio-economic population in our towns.
The curriculum we have now was developed as a one on one peer based academic special needs program, so yes, we have a curriculum, but it’s not one that is created for a universal pre-k program.
You were told that the local businesses are ok with the expansion, but they are not and offering free pre-k for all will put local businesses out of business, further reducing the options available to our local families so they will have to go to Old Saybrook and East Lyme for other preschool options. Where are they going to buy a house then? According to Ian Neviaser, they’ll buy a house where their kids are going to preschool and that will not be in our towns.
You were told that everyone in our towns wants free pre-k for all kids – we have over 300 signatures on two petitions from people who don’t want the pre-k expansion in it’s (sic) current form, who are asking you as a Board to hold off on this proposal so that the program can be fully developed.Diane Linderman and Ian Neviaser told us at the Middle School PTO meeting in March that you, as a Board, still have time to rework the Region 18 2019/2020 budget, you can remove the proposed pre-k expansion costs of $400,000, you can adjust for the $150,000 in insurance savings that we already know about and you can decrease the heating expenses to Region 18 by $300,000 by taking steps to prevent heat loss in all of our buildings and offer a flat budget for the 2019/2020 school year without taking any programing away from our k-12 students.
By creating a flat budget, the current $1.2 million increase to the taxpayers of Old Lyme will be decreased by over $640,000.
Ian Neviaser has said that he’ll keep the pre-k expansion even if the budget gets voted down – the truth is that no one in our towns wants the budget to get voted down.
But we do want fiscal responsibility and we want you, the Board of Education, to represent us, the taxpayers. That’s why you were elected. As a Board, you can take the pre-k expansion out of the budget since it was put in under false pretenses. Then you’ll have time to explore how to add universal pre-k in a cost effective manner, with realistic logistics, minimal impact on the taxpayers and no negative effect on local businesses.
As a Board of Education concerned with children who may not be receiving pre-k exposure prior to kindergarten, you can change the lottery system, that we all know is not a blind lottery, to give preference to those families who have financial hardship and may not be able to afford sending their children to pre-school. We already as a community have accepted that the peer program is paid for by the taxes. So, make an adjustment to your acceptance of peers to ensure that those children most in need are taken over those who can afford to send their children to preschool.
Give us a budget that we can support on May 7th.
Thank you.”

 

 

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