Tindall-Gibson explains budget process

NAUGATUCK — In a continuation of the Board of Education’s recent efforts to improve communication with the public, Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Tindall-Gibson explained in his own words the history and rationale behind the board’s heavily-scrutinized budget process in a post on the school system’s Web site Monday.

In the post, the school chief calls the borough’s decision last spring to freeze the school district’s budget at $56.1 million “a fair and reasonable measure given the state of the economy.” But he points to two major factors that have the board on track to overspend its budget by more than $2 million: A new teachers’ contract that increased salary obligations by about $725,000 and “unusually high prescription and dental claims for the last two months of the previous fiscal year.”

Tindall-Gibson then chronicles several cost-saving proposals compiled by the board between September and November.

Perhaps the most significant portion of the post is the superintendent’s explanation of a Nov. 16 memorandum he sent to school administrators, outlining more than $2 million in possible savings. That plan included 60 teacher layoffs and cuts to music, art and athletic programs; it was dubbed the “doomsday proposal” by the board and helped trigger community outcry, manifested by rallies and calls for Tindall-Gibson’s resignation.

In the post, Tindall-Gibson explains the so-called doomsday proposal was only one of four to be discussed by the board. Since deficit calculations are only estimates, he says he planned to meet with administrators to put together plans that would save roughly $500,000, $1 million, $1.5 million and $2 million. He says they outlined the $2 million plan first and notes it was not meant to be publicized at that time.

“This was summarized in a memo the superintendent gave to district administrators on Nov. 16, so they could talk with their faculties about these possibilities before reading about them in the newspaper, should they be discussed at the tri-board meeting that night,” Tindall-Gibson writes. “This is the memo sighted by the newspaper and the union. The BOE had not received nor had the opportunity to discuss the list prior to its publication in the newspaper.”