Tempers flare over ballooning budget deficit for Monroe’s schools

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Interim Finance Director Frank Connolly, right, answers a question during a budget workshop at Masuk High School Monday.

Board of Education members held a budget workshop for 2020-21 Monday night, but the need to close a deficit of over $1 million in the current fiscal year hung over the room like a dark cloud. Tempers flared during the discussion, leading to an abrupt end to the meeting.

Though the school district’s interim finance director, Frank Connolly, insists board members were informed of the ballooning deficit throughout the year, board member David Ferris said, “I just feel like a bomb was dropped on us.”

“When were we going to be told about this?” Ferris asked. “I’m tired of this. I’m going to get some fresh air.”

Ferris got up from his seat and stormed out of the Masuk Media Center. Looking back at the tables where board members and administrators sat, he said, “this is unacceptable.”

Chairwoman Donna Lane called for a recess and as soon as the meeting got back underway minutes later, she announced it was adjourned.

Connolly estimates the total shortfall at “roughly” $1.4 million, though some board members say it is around $1.5 million.

Connolly said a $95,000 special education budget deficit the school board already anticipated blew up to $300,000 by last week, adding the board was informed then.

He said Superintendent of Schools Jack Zamary’s office has kept the board informed as the medical deficit rose to $685,000 and the board already knew about a $300,000 “negative plug” agreed to during the last budget process.

The negative plug underfunded the budget by $300,000 with the intent of the district making up for it with savings throughout the year. A hard spending freeze this year, resulted in a savings of $400,000.

Connolly said the district found a $117,000 deficit for transportation within the budget, adding the setting of the transportation budget preceded him, so he does not know why it is short.

The budget for paraprofessionals has a $95,000 shortfall.

Time is running out

Connolly said he could get a more solid estimate of the total shortfall within a month.

“We’re now in the middle of February,” Lane said of when the board would have the information. “How are we possibly going to save $1 million in four months and two weeks? We aren’t going to be able to pay our bills.”

Connolly suggested asking the town for help with the $685,000 medical insurance deficit, as municipal leaders had assisted the district earlier in the fiscal year.

“The town doesn’t have an unlimited amount of money to give us and any amount would have to be voted on by the residents as a special appropriation,” Lane said. “Townspeople can say, ‘no. We gave you an allocation. You have to live within your allocation.'”

After the meeting, Connolly said, “we’ve been reporting the numbers all along,” adding his belief some board members were surprised at how high the total is when everything is added together.

While trying to close out the current budget year, Board of Education members are still deliberating on the superintendent’s $60.5 million budget proposal for fiscal year 2020-21, which represents a 5.7 percent spending increase.

3 thoughts on “Tempers flare over ballooning budget deficit for Monroe’s schools

  1. I am a Monroe tax payer an there is a budget for a reason. The towns budget for education is broken down and voted on by an annual referendum by the tax payers. This aporate fudged if you ask me. This is totally unacceptable to me as a 30 year taxpayer in the town of Monroe. I feel strongly someone in the board of Ed needs to figure out how to solve this deficit quickly and there needs to be accountability by the superintendent and others that are accountable for the Budget. I suppose the selectman has no knowledge of this eithier until recently..The town tax payers are strapped already with a current revaluation completed and are thus waiting for the new mill rate to be voted on in a referendum latter this year.The new year has just begun and this is a bomb dropped on the town taxpayers already burden.The corporate world those responsible would be fired without a doubt. For the most part their are reduced to no healh benefits by employers now a days.I fail to see were this should be different in the education I budget.I strongly suggest this be considered by the board of Ed in the future budget latter this year. What is needed here is that the town taxpayers need to go on line and take a good look at the education budget. The budget for education needs to be broken down realistically and appropriately. Teachers salaries are generally the top expence of the education budget. I am not saying that’s the way to go but realistically the higher budgets numbets get the cuts for the most part as a rule of thumb in the past. l know there’s teachers have contracts so I doubt that would be the avenue to take in the current phyiscal school year to balance the current Ed budget deficit.The selectman needs to be included in the budget in the future since the board of Ed has failed to meet the budget by 4.1 million.Their needs to be steps in placece so that this doesn’t happen again. I am extremely disappointed by the lack of the board of Ed to follow a budget as a tax payer.I therefore strongly feel those responsible need to be represented and or terminated or voluntarily cut their salary’s to help bridge the gap as a gesture of good faith to show their responsibility. I strongly suggest the town taxpayers vote down the next budget referendum this year in protest of the board of eds enourmous deficit this current school year.

  2. It seems like the Monroe BOE is, like most of academia, out of touch with reality. They were given a budget, and short of a natural catastrophe, must live within it. As I understand it, there was a similar short fall last year to the tune of around $1 million.
    And all of this comes after approving a new three year contract with the teachers. Curious timing.
    It is very late in the budget and school years to come up with savings of the magnitude quoted. This gives me zero confidence in any new budget presentations by the BOE.
    Should be an interesting budget referendum this year.

  3. This business with the BOE over-extending itself is nothing new. In the 50+ years I have lived in this town, only ONCE do I remember a budget with no tax increase, and it’s always the BOE looking for more money that causes the tax increase. Enough already! Between Lamont and the democrats raising taxes on everything from vet bills to prepared foods, it’s no surprise people are leaving this town and state in droves.

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