On Monday, June 23, the Milford School District Board of Education made several cuts in order to pass a balanced $13.3 million budget for fiscal year 2014-15. The new budget includes pay raises for staff but does not include funding for several coaching positions, extracurricular activities or three sports.
“The board approved a 20 percent local line item budget cut across the board,” said Dr. Phyllis Kohel, Superintendent. “In addition, we cut approximately 20 limited contracts and three athletic programs.” The three athletic programs cut from the district were Winter Track, Middle School Track and Competition Cheerleading. Swimming, which was originally one of the sports considered for elimination, will continue since the Greater Milford Boys and Girls Club gave the district a 50 percent reduction on their pool rental fees, which Dr. Kohel said was greatly appreciated as it will save the district $5,000 during the upcoming school year. Elimination of the three sports will save the district over $13,000 per year.
Another option that the board had discussed at previous meetings was instituting a “pay-to-play” policy in which students would be required to pay $50 to participate in sports at the district. This option would have raised more than $30,000, but the option was not discussed at the meeting. Dr. Kohel said that the board has chosen not to institute such a policy at the present time.
Custodial, secretarial and teacher salaries will all be increased by two percent to meet the requirements of a recent Milford Education Association contract. Salaries negotiated through contracts cannot be cut due to federal labor requirements. Dr. Kohel also said that in order to attract highly-qualified teachers, the district has to keep salaries competitive.
Even with the cuts, which totaled $558,336, the district must still use contingency funds to meet a budget shortfall of $1.8 million. The district had hoped that an operations budget referendum held in March would allow them to avoid using contingency funds to balance the budget, but the referendum failed, along with a request for a tax increase to build a new middle school.
“We do want to go out for a referendum in the fall,” Dr. Kohel said. “The board wanted to investigate further the cost of both a Major Cap and Operations referendum prior to voting on a specific date. Because of the need for both, we will definitely go back out for a Major Cap and Operations referendum.” Dr. Kohel says that they will take a different approach for the fall referendum, hoping to saturate the community with as much information as possible.
Dr. Kohel said that they would do telephone campaigns and door-to-door visits in order to get the message to members of the community. In addition, the district plans to connect their message to as many open houses, concerts and other district events as possible rather than presentations at individual schools as they did for the spring referendum. Dr. Kohel said the board hopes that will allow them to reach a larger number of community members in order to explain the need for additional funds in the district.
“We have talked to a number of people, including people from our community,” Dr. Kohel said. “They have contributed ideas and suggestions for going out for another referendum. I will rely heavily on their input along with any of the Superintendents who have successfully passed referendums either recently or in the past.”