Board Chairman: Groton Schools Face $3.7M Shortfall Next Year

Brian Shirvell predicts Cutler will go if board fails to make a decision now.

School Board Chairman Brian Shirvell said Monday that Groton schools will start the next fiscal year $3.7 million in the hole if they try to keep three middle schools open, and he believes they will be forced to close Cutler Middle School by default.

Shirvell made the comment as Groton struggles with the decision of whether to close one of its three middle schools and which one to close. , but has been criticized over planning and this decision.

Karen Podurgiel, a parent with children in the schools, asked the board Monday to wait until the 2013-14 school year to make a choice.  She said the “overwhelming” is the timeline is too tight and “this transition will not be smooth.”

But Shirvell said he believes the board will be backed into a corner if it takes that approach.

“I’ll give you bluntly what I feel will happen if you recind the vote and I’ll explain why,” he said, adding, “Cutler Middle School will close by default. . .”

Superintendent Paul Kadri did not dispute Shirvell’s figures, but said Monday he would estimate the shortfall more conservatively at $3.3 million.

Shirvell explained that Groton will lose $1.4 million in federal money from a jobs program that expires Sept. 30, and will have to cover a 2 percent negotiated pay raises for teachers, who had zero percent the last two years.  Fuel oil and other energy costs have also risen, he said.

Shirvell said the school department scrambled this year to have enough money, drained accounts like those for supplies and materials, and took $600,000 from a health care reserve account that will be unavailable next year.

He predicted taxpayers will not close a $3.7 million gap - it would require a 9 percent increase in the mill rate – so they will demand cuts.

The other large ticket items will have bigger pull, Shirvell predicted. For example, eliminating sports and student activities would save $900,000; getting rid of all-day kindergarten and returning to half day would save $800,000; raising class size from 25 to 28 students would save money but would be difficult to sell, Shirvell indicated.

He said the district would likely have to close a middle school anyway, and would be forced to keep Fitch Middle School open because it is largest and the distrcit would not have started planning to get portable classrooms.

The two schools remaining would be West Side and Cutler, and he said West Side would probably stay because it provides a student health center, an adult education program and a community center. The school is also the only one remaining in Groton city.

“Our numbers are almost identical in how we see the vision of the future,” Kadri said after Shirvell spoke.

Kadri said there is a $1.55 million difference between the cost of keeping three middle schools open and having two.

B.R.E.E. November 29, 2011 at 01:02 PM
So it sounds like the bd of ed has made a lot of hasty decisions and as a result have no wiggle room what so ever. Closing Cutler is just another one of those hasty decisions. It is extremely reactionary and not planning for the future. I thought West Side had no room for portables. A school based health center is no reason for keeping a school and neither is the location. As I have heard time and time again from people on The Patch; it is all Groton. We need to look at the numbers and more importantly the building conditions. Honestly, if I hear school based health center one more time... Did Shirvell realize that the school based center can move to Cutler once the Poquonnock Bridge population attends Cutler? Does he know that FMS has a school based health center too? How will the bd of ed fund the needed repairs to FMS? Next year we will be hearing about the critical condition of FMS and how repairs are needed immediately. Rather than balancing their budget each year they need to be working on a plan for the future. I know they will say ...Phase II, but what was the alternative plan? Close schools, force overcrowding? That is not what people voted for...they voted down Phase II. Keeping FMS open allows for the bd of ed to come to us next year and say we need a new middle school ASAP. If they want to close Cutler use FMS while building a new middle school or renovating Cutler and expanding it then that is a plan. What is the plan Shirvell? The taxpayers need to know.
rugger23 November 29, 2011 at 02:11 PM
I see this as bit differenlyt. Phase II was clearly stated as a Plan A w/ no good Plan B. Please embrace this or we may tear up the town education.By voting down Phase II we as a group we voted for an abysss, school closing, redistricting and 'more' affordable education. again, This was clear and we as a group gave a clear mandate back to the town. We also have a very active group of dedicated taxpayers in town who want 0% increases and frankly, they have a very solid and supportable arguement. I would say this group is frankly 100% correct on this issue and while i am not a FFAE (so please do not attack me) member, it is a very difficult arguement to knock down in any way in the economic conditions we are in. Foremost are the kids in our school system. I believed in Phase II as it potentially had the least disruptive long term approach. Well..., Phase II in its approach is not going to happen so at best we need the town council, the RTM and the BOE to listen. to kids first, the 0% tax increase voices and come up for the best manageable plan for our town and get behind it. We elected the officials across RTM, Town Council and the BOE recently... now let them do their work and get behind the outcomes and we will be stronger as a town. .
Bobbi Jo Cini November 29, 2011 at 03:48 PM
Why even leave a comment, the BOE isn't listening. Why have public meetings, comments and views, the BOE isn't listening. What about parking ( at any given middle school there are cars on the streets now, using town roads for parking ), transportation ( not enough buses or drivers , this alone will take months to plan), lunch waves, cafeteria size? Just another project that will be rushed though and only hurt the students. In 10 years go and see if NEA & CK are still standing and if they have portables. But, why say anything, no one is listening.
Ralph Little November 29, 2011 at 06:32 PM
Rugger is almost entirely correct. Phase 2 addressed all of the nonsense Bree and others continue to throw out there. The challenge before the Board, balancing educational needs with millions LESS in available funding, is not going to be easy, or painless. A 0% increase would be awesome compared to what the Board faces nect year. It is not helpful for those who voted down the best solution, one that countless people worked on for years, to gripe about the consequences. This hasn't been a hurried decision; those who paid attention knew this was coming.
nellie November 29, 2011 at 08:52 PM
Kadri says it is a 1.55 million difference between the cost of having 3 schools and 2 schools. That seems like a manageable amount to match with cuts in various areas. One thing that should be cut is all of the school psychologists. I do not know how many there are, but the BOE could probably save about $1/2 annually million there. Maybe a nice frill to some people, but a huge waste of money for the school and useless to academics.
Carol Day November 29, 2011 at 09:54 PM
Society as a whole keeps asking teachers to do more & more that was once taught in the home, community, places of Worship, or was not yet needed for a productive life (like technology & the values necessary to keep the user safe). Please do not even suggest cutting School Psychologists & School Social Workers. As more & more parents neglect to take their children to Synagogue, Church, Mosque, etc. children have less people outside their families to turn to when families fall on hard times. In my 35 years of teaching I relied more & more on the School Psychologists & School Social Workers to help me deal with troubled - & often out of control - children as I also tried to do my regular job of help the average student grow, challenge the better students, & bring the students who were sometimes 2 years below grade level to catch up.
Jennifer Sim November 29, 2011 at 10:16 PM
Mr. Shrivell's comments were functionally correct. I respect the courage he took in saying a very unpopular statement. But many here are taking it out of context. His statement does not mean that the public was not listened to. If we assume that there will be zero funding from the town while expenditures will increase then the portables required to hold students at CMS would not be financially possible. It doesn't mean CMS is the school to close. Mr. Shrivell knows the numbers on the BOE better than anyone and he is using that knowledge to come to a conclusion that is not entirely unlikely. The BOE has listened to the public very intently. But at the end of the day if the money is not there from the Town then our needs and wants are just that. If you want all three schools funded then get the money from the Town Council and RTM. They hold the wallet and you hold them.
Betrayed by The Board November 29, 2011 at 10:25 PM
Ms. Sim, Can you tell us how BOE maintenance vehicles are funded please? I seem to have seen several bright, shiny, new ones around town lately. Thank you, BBTB
RICHARD PASQUALINI JR. November 29, 2011 at 11:22 PM
Still trying to fit the square peg into the round hole. A whole group of educated minds, yet there is no thought outside the box. I realize that Mr. Shirvell was able to make the comment, since he was not re:elected. However, I take issue with some of his numbers, mainly the 1.4 million Federal Jobs grant. During the 2011 budget session, I clearly asked where this money had gone, because information was received it was being used as retirement bonuses. This was confirmed by Mr. Kadri during the meeting. I also stated that the Federal Job's Grant was intended to retain teachers that maybe laid off, because of local budgets. ( There were No teachers laid off) So, based on Mr. Kadri's confirmation, there is NO 1.4 million short fall. (See RTM Budget Video) I will state again, the Town currently employ's approximately 5 certified civil engineers. The Town Public Works has more earth moving equipment to rebuild a third world country, along with the manpower. I do not believe that spending money on portable classrooms is a wise investment at nearly 1 million dollars. I am sure that utilizing what the increase in students would be between the two schools and using national standards for square footage, the engineers can develop a plan for brick and mortor additions, with only subcontracting out certain phases of the projects. Utilizing and working with local contractors and resources will benefit the community and expense. This would allow FMS to close, as it should and provide time
Josh November 30, 2011 at 01:43 AM
Time for a fresh set of eyes on the B.O.E. budget. Mr . Pasqualini i could not agree more, give any small business owner a week with the board's budget and a million would be saved likity split, but that won't happen because the time and effort isn't being put in to find the small savings just the nice easy (hurt the taxpayer or hurt the student) big program or activity cut to find savings
Joe November 30, 2011 at 02:37 AM
Nellie, Do you realize what the job description for a school psychologist is? School psychologist's not only work with students to help them resolve issues; they are there to conduct psychological testing necessary to help assist teachers and parents to better teach their children, as well as to qualify students for special education services. Before you start helping make cuts to school budgets, please make sure that you understand the relevance and importance of the jobs within a school district. It is easy to make cuts of a half million dollars when you don't understand the educational process.
Betrayed by The Board November 30, 2011 at 11:11 AM
Cuts. A lot of little ones, or fewer big ones? Damaging cuts, or painless cuts? No brainer, right? Do away with big ticket items that won't negatively affect the quality of education our children receive. Nonessential administration must go: elementary assistant principals, recently created Central Office administration such as the psychometrician, curriculum coordinators (Assistant Superintendent Butler is charged with overseeing curriculum), etc.. And the $140K Mr. Kadri wants to donate to BOE member Peruzzoti's Schooners... NO WAY! As for the raises all Administration has been taking, while our much lower paid teachers have suffered for the greater good, NO MORE! It's time to get things under control Groton. Demand that our BOE hold Mr. Kadri under the microscope in every way!
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