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Hartford: Superintendent Warns Of Staff Layoffs Next Fiscal Year

By VANESSA DE LA TORRE

March 28, 2011

HARTFORD School administrators plan to present a 2011-12 education budget that they say will include layoffs to avoid requesting a spending increase from the city.

At a city council budget workshop Thursday, Superintendent Steven Adamowski and the school system's chief financial officer, Paula Altieri, said the budget was still being prepared and did not detail how many staff cuts they would propose or which employee groups would be affected.

But in a preview of the school system's finances, Altieri said they are projecting a $9.8 million school budget deficit next fiscal year. Overall, school administrators said they anticipate a $399.7 million general budget, an increase of $18.3 million, or 4.8 percent, from the current year's adopted spending plan.

Those figures do not include debt service or shared services with the city, estimates that the city council is still developing for the municipal budget.

A federal education jobs grant that the school system saved for the 2011-12 budget would fund nearly $11 million of the proposed spending increase. But administrators are also assuming to have $2.4 million less in school transportation money from the state.

Adamowski said he plans to cut central office and central services spending by 10 percent in the coming budget, shifting more resources to the schools.

Later, speaking generally about the shortfall, Adamowski told council members that closing it will "largely" require a reduction in staff, "since we are so labor-intensive." He did not delve into specifics.

Victor De La Paz, the deputy chief financial officer, said any information on layoffs might be ready in the next week. He contended that the cuts would have a minimal impact on students because of lower enrollment.

Andrea Johnson, president of the Hartford Federation of Teachers, could not be reached for comment Friday.

Administrators said funding the education budget would require $93.7 million from city taxpayers the current contribution. The state paid $188 million in an education cost-sharing grant for the existing budget, and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has pledged to keep that level of funding the same for municipalities in 2011-12.

Another major source of revenue, $95.6 million in donations and non-state grants, is also expected to remain flat.

Systemwide, salaries are estimated to increase by $5.7 million, in part because of a new labor agreement with the teachers' union that calls for extending the school day by 30 minutes for the 2011-12 year.

Other projected budget increases include $5.6 million for special education and tuition costs, and $5.6 million for fringe benefits and insurance.

Adamowski said he was counting on suggestions from the board of education's budget task force before presenting his spending plan to the board on April 11.

The group, which includes community members with business and insurance expertise, has been meeting over the past few months and is scheduled to offer its recommendations for short- and long-term cost-savings on April 5.

Adamowski said he expected the task force to address pension and health care spending which are rising at an "unsustainable rate," the superintendent said and how to reduce transportation and special education costs.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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