Greenwich School Board Inches Toward Final Budget

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Greenwich Superintendent of Schools William McKersie, second from left, listens to a question from school board member Peter Sherr during Thursday's budget meeting. Photo Credit: Eric Gendron

GREENWICH, Conn. – More than $1 million was trimmed from the initial school budget proposal presented to the Greenwich Board of Education by Superintendent William McKersie, as the board races to find administrative savings before voting on the final budget next week.

Despite searching for cuts, the proposed 2013-14 budget would increase $2.74 million, or 2 percent, from this school year's budget, with nearly all of the increases going into student programs. McKersie touted increased funding to technology education, which was supported by the school board.

"From a digital learning standpoint, we have an achievement gap," McKersie said. "We're trying to engage a consultant who can come in and very rapidly give us an implementation plan similar to other districts in the country that have been successful with this."

He praised the Board of Education for bringing concerns about the district's "technology gap" to him when he was named superintendent and supporting the implementation of his plan "even in a tough budget climate."

The specifics of how the district will apply new technology in the classroom was still being explored, but McKersie said the opportunity to expand the use of Smart Boards and one-on-one learning tools such as tablets is likely.

"There's a tendency to look at the numbers and say that this is about devices, training and staffing," he said. "We're not trading people for technology. We're having technology enhance and strengthen what our teachers, paraprofessionals and principals do."

However, board members warned that "painful" cuts would have to be made at the administrative level.

McKersie's original budget proposal included a $3.79  million increase. But the board decided to make more than $900,000 in unspecified cuts at the Central Office and Havemeyer accounts to keep the budget increase closer to 2 percent.

The board debated the finer points of the budget for more than an hour, but all members agreed the version with the 2 percent increase would likely be the one that will be passed at the meeting Dec. 20.

"It protects the classroom, so I think it's a fair budget," board Vice Chairman Barbara O'Neil said. "We can tinker forever, but I think we should go with the 2 percent [raise]."

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