The Oxford Board or Education (BOE) budget will be presented to residents for a vote on May 15th. I am writing to express my support for the budget as presented and would like to clarify why I think this budget makes sense for Oxford. As many of you know, the Oxford Board of Finance (BOF) recently voted (twice) to cut $250,000 from the proposed BOE budget. While I strongly disagree with these cuts and am concerned that what remains will be insufficient to address many important and a few critical needs within our district, failure to pass this budget would only ensure further cuts and make a difficult situation much worse. In these economic times, this is an outcome that we can’t afford.
I also have strong confidence in the process that was used to formulate the budget and believe that it strikes the right balance between fiscal constraint and meeting our obligations to provide a robust and challenging educational experience for our students. The bi-partisan budget that was presented to the BOF contained a 3.3% increase from that adopted for 2011-2012. This was a significantly pared down request from what was initially presented to the Board in the Superintendent’s requested budget. Many felt that a 3.3% increase was reasonable considering the fixed cost increases (exceeding $600,000) and expiration of a federal grant ($230,000) that accounted for about 1.7% of that figure. The remaining 1.6 % of the increase was slated to provide funding for the following:
- Restoration of Assistant Principal at Great Oak Middle School
- 2 Kindergarten Para-professionals
- Restoration of hours for 2 clerical positions
- Technology upgrades including SmartBoards
- Contract with ACES for K-12 curriculum consultation in anticipation of CT Common Core Standards implementation and alignment needs
- Restoration of TAG
- Restoration of two 9th grade sports teams
As mentioned previously, cuts by the BOF bring the real increase over last year (excluding fixed costs) from 1.6% to .6%. While some have asserted that any increase is good, the real question that needs to be answered is whether these cuts leave adequate funding to do much more than just maintain what we currently have. The answers to that question are no and barely. Cuts over the recent years have placed Oxford in a precarious position where quality cannot continue to be maintained without investment and commitment to funding beyond arbitrarily defined allowances. Some have attempted to convince us that money does not drive education. This is only partly true and mostly false. Money does not drive education; it is the fuel that powers the car. Without adequate fuel, all the leadership in the world will drive us nowhere. As it is too late to address this issue now, the only option for Oxford voters and those concerned about our educational future is to face the reality that we will vote not on the budget many of us wanted but on the budget we have. This we must do!
I would like to express my thanks and gratitude all the folks in the district who that have worked so hard to create and prepare this budget. Knowing your level of competence and commitment has emboldened me to assert that I support this budget with full faith. I urge the residents of Oxford to come out and vote the referendum on May 15th.