Trumbull school board approves $117.2M budget request for 2022-23

The Long Hill Administration Building

The Long Hill Administration Building

Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

TRUMBULL — The Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday night to pass a 2022-23 budget of just under $117.3 million. That is about $5 million more than the current year’s budget.

Superintendent Martin Semmel submitted his original 173-page budget proposal to the board in early January, and has met with the board multiple times to discuss the proposal. Semmel said there have been minimal changes to the budget since that original proposal and the bottom line remained the same.

At the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting, Frank Squiccimarro, president of Trumbull PTA Council, read a statement on behalf of the council in support of Semmel’s budget proposal.

“Trumbull has shown a dip in student achievement in reading and mathematics. This budget addresses that,” Squiccimarro said.

He said the town is still recovering from “drastic” cuts in school funding two budget cycles ago, and this proposed budget is a step toward rebuilding.

“As the world shifts back to normalcy, we must embrace the opportunity to fund our schools and rebuild the community of strength, resiliency and academic excellence for future generations,” said Squiccimarro.

The statement, which he delivered via online chat, drew applause from some of those attending the meeting in person.

Before voting, the board members proposed multiple questions and concerns to Semmel. Board member Julia McNamee said she was concerned about the plan to raise maximum class sizes at the kindergarten level from 20 to 22.

According to the original budget proposal, this would allow the district to reduce the number of elementary teachers by three. The money saved there would allow the district to address some space issues at Middlebrook and Booth Hill schools.

McNamee was concerned about the possible effects of boosting the class size.

“I see our kindergarten students as our most vulnerable students,” she said. “If we are trying to build a world-class school system, you don’t do that by raising class sizes.”

Though other board members understood her concerns, they advised a more holistic approach to viewing the budget. Board member Marie Petitti said she remembers teaching a class of 30 students, so she’s sympathetic to McNamee’s concerns.

But, Petitti said, she wasn’t in favor of adding money to the proposal to lower class sizes, especially since the kindergarten teachers will have aides.

“At the end of the day, you have to look at the whole budget,” she said.

Board member Jackie Norcel called Semmel’s proposal “balanced” but pointed out that it might not be the final budget the district has to work with.

The budget was scheduled to be submitted to First Selectman Vicki Tesoro on Wednesday and it will then head to the Board of Finance. The board will conduct its own deliberations before sending it to the Town Council as part of the overall town budget proposal.

The town council is required by statute to pass a budget by the second Tuesday in May.

Norcel expressed her hope that the proposal survived the three layers of oversight intact.

“I hope we still have this budget in May,” Norcel said of Semmel’s proposal. “I think that’s when we’re going to have to make some real important decisions and look to keep that balance.”