The Bloomfield School Board voted 8-1 against a proposed school budget described as "armageddon for the district."
Middle School teacher and head of the Bloomfield Teachers Association teachers union John Shanagher described the defeated proposed schools budget as "armageddon" for the district at Tuesday night's Board of Education meeting.
He said he had been informed in a conversation with a school administrator earlier that day that the proposed budget entailed cutting over 100 teachers in the district in addition to administrative and secretarial staff. Given Bloomfield's already crowded classrooms, Shanagher said the loss of such a large percentage of teachers would be disastrous for the district. But, speaking during the open comments section of the school board meeting, he asked for specifics about what would be cut.
Bloomfield Schools Superintendent Jason Bing confirmed, broadly, Shanagher's characterization of the cuts the district will undergo. He said that under the terms of the budget they were voting on for the first time that meeting, they were looking at the loss of over 100 instructional staff, 5-6 administrators and 3-6 secretaries, as well as large parts of their technology budget.
"I would agree with Mr. Shanagher's use of the word armageddon," Bing said.
Board members attributed the shortfall of funds to past budget actions and to decrease in value of taxable assets in Bloomfield. Board President Mary Shaughnessy said that two years ago, the board, working under the pressure of the state-imposed 2 percent property tax increase cap, passed a flat budget. The following year, the board passed a budget with a 1.6 percent increase.
"Doing that emptied our coffers," Shaughnessy said at the meeting.
She said that even the below-cap increase of 1.6 percent had substantial impact on property owners.
"We have devastating cuts coming our way," Shaughnessy said.
Bloomfield Schools Interim Business Administrator Dr. James Verbist said that Bloomfield's tax base has shrunk.
"Over the last two years, the net rateables in our community have dropped by $125 million," Verbist said. "That's a difference of $12,000 in net tax points."
He said that it is very difficult to run a school district when you have declining property values.
Speaking after the budget discussion, Shanagher indicated that last year's budget was a major driver of the present problems.
"The decision to not go up to cap last year was devestating," he said.
The sole vote in favor was cast by Board member Kent Weisert. With the proposed budget defeated, the Board will hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday, March 5.