The Danbury Public School district is planning to lay off nine teaching staff in order to close a $4.7 million gap in the recently rolled out 2023-2024 budget.
When asked about the potential lay-offs, Chairman of the City of Danbury's Educational Budget Committee, Warren Levy, said, "lay-offs are the last thing in the world we would ever want to do because they [the teaching staff] are on the forefront of educating our kids. This is a terrible situation that undermines public confidence. We want to make sure that our kids are well-educated." He further indicated the town had never laid off teachers, even when it had been previously accused of underfunding the school budget, further underscoring the unusual nature of the situation.
Levy had previously estimated that the district could run into as much as a $9 million deficit after the budget meeting on April 17, 2023, and asked how the district planned on handling the shortfall. The district was unable to answer the question at that time, so Levy advised on taking steps to remediate the estimated deficit as soon as possible.
Part of the funding gap was attributed to higher-than-expected insurance expenses after the district saw “a much larger number of individuals with claims of more than $50,000,” said John Spang, the school district’s chief financial officer.
“That is historically not close to what we usually have,” Spang said. “We asked (the insurance company) if they think that would continue, and they did not say, ‘yes.’ Right now we’re thinking it is a phenomenon related to the pandemic.” Or perhaps it's a phenomenon related to the covid vaccine mandates that many teachers felt compelled to follow?
Levy said that the comment made by the Board of Education Chief Financial officer about higher than expected insurance cost is not supported with facts. The City of Danbury and the Board of Education several years ago had set up a self-insurance fund of several million dollars to cover deductibles and higher premiums.
The President of NEA Danbury, Erin Daly, complained that the Board of Education hadn't made any cuts from administrative expenses, and also alleged that the district was underfunded.
Nonetheless, this problem could have been averted had the district heeded the warnings from the city's Educational Committee Chair and the Finance Director who want to make sure that every dollar they spend on the school reaches the classroom.