The Nutmeg Board of Education is in the thick of its budget deliberations, and the members are having trouble establishing priorities. Board members Red Cent and Penny Pincher are still smarting from the budget overrun in special education costs last year, and they have been arguing that the Board should allocate more money to the special education line item in the 2019-2020 to avoid another problem. By contrast, Ms. Chairperson and Mal Content are presuming optimistically that special education costs will moderate, and they want the Board to allocate funds to hiring more teachers to reduce class size in the elementary schools. Given these conflicting views, the Board members are having a very difficult time coming together on a budget to present to the Nutmeg Board of Finance. When Mr. Chairperson adjourned the meeting last week, he admonished the Board members to reflect and reconsider their respective positions.
Veteran Board member Bob Bombast saw this impasse as an opportunity to be the leader he fancied himself to be. He sat down with A Practical Guide to Connecticut School Law and read all he could about the budget process for boards of education in Connecticut. The reading wasn’t exactly scintillating, and it was a slog for Bob. However, by the end of the evening, he came up with the answer, at least in own mind.
“Fellow Board members,” Bob began grandly in an email to the entire Board, “I am pleased to share with you the results of my research on the Board budget process. We don’t really have to worry too much about where we put the dollars in the first instance. Under Connecticut statutes section 10-222, we can transfer funds throughout the year. In preparing the budget right now, we just have to make our best guess. If special education costs are higher than we budget or lower than we budget, we can just move money around. So we should do our best and chill out.”
In less than an hour, both Penny Pincher and Mal Content responded to Bob’s email, copying the other Board members. Penny wrote that, with that understanding the Board can simply move money around, she will drop her insistence on allocating additional funds to special education. Ever the naysayer, however, Mal Content wanted to know more. “What is the process for making these transfers?” he asked. “I don’t want to make a big public deal out of it!”
Bob was ready with the answer. “Have no fear!” he wrote back. “The Board can delegate the authority to make transfers to Mr. Superintendent (or whomever else we want). We can just tell Mr. Superintendent in executive session what we want him to do, and the necessary transfers will be made.”
That explanation mollified even Mal Content, and the path was clear for an agreement at the next meeting. When the Board met again, the discussion was short and sweet, and the Board promptly adopted a budget to submit to the Town. Mr. Chairperson was greatly relieved to have this important task complete, and he thanked Bob Bombast for his leadership and guidance on the issue.
Local reporter Nancy Newshound was already curious as to why the Board members were now playing so nice, and Mr. Chairperson’s comments confirmed her suspicions. Nancy stood up and asked, “Hey! Did you guys have a secret meeting?”
Mr. Chairperson tried to walk it back. “Of course not; Board members just chatted a bit between meetings. Nothing wrong with that!” Continue Reading