Superintendent lays out school spending priorities

During the Board of Education’s Nov. 8 meeting, Superintendent Kevin Smith presented the Wilton Public School District’s budget goals and assumptions for fiscal year 2020 (FY20).

It’s important that the school budget “lines up to” the district’s priorities, said Smith, adding that the following goals for FY20 do not complete the district’s list of funding priorities but are at the top “in terms of rank order:”

  • Provide “adequate funding to maintain and improve the high-quality education” by funding an alternative high school program and secondary special education coordinator, and moving the district’s digital learning director, Fran Kompar, from a part-time to full-time position.
  • Target investments, including those in staff members, in order to “advance the district’s strategic objectives.”
  • Adhere to the Board of Education’s guidelines for class size.
  • Maintain investment in professional learning initiatives.
  • Fund year two of the district’s capital improvement plan.
  • Fund year three of the district’s digital learning plan.
  • Remain within the Board of Finance’s budget guidance of a 1.6% increase.

A proposal for an alternative high school program will soon be “coming to the Teaching and Learning Committee and [Board of Education] for review,” said Smith.

When it comes to adding a second special education coordinator, Smith acknowledged the projected 32-student enrollment decrease for next year, as well as Wilton residents’ concerns about taxes, but said he believes he could “make a really strong argument” for adding to “the administrative pool.” Smith said he plans to present “a rationale” in subsequent weeks about why adding a second special education coordinator is a priority.

Smith is proposing moving Kompar into a full-time position because of how important digital learning is to the “quality and diversity of learning experiences” in the district, he said, as well as the fact that Kompar currently “does the work of three people” despite being only a part-time employee. Board of Education member Glenn Hemmerle suggested moving Kompar to full-time sooner, if possible. The board agreed to discuss the matter during its next meeting.

Assumptions

Smith said the school district can expect “continuing pressure” on its budget, resulting in part from “a potential decline in grand list revenue as a result of the revaluation,” as well as a cap on the state and local tax (SALT) deduction, and “potential for reassignment of a portion of the teacher pension obligation to municipalities.”

In addition to a projected 32-student enrollment decrease next school year, the district is expecting to see a 4.6% decrease in medical insurance costs, as well as a possible decrease in employer contributions to pensions and OPEB.

The district is also looking at the following projected increases going into the FY20 budget:

  • Teacher salaries: 3%
  • Administrator salaries: 3.4%
  • Secretary and paraprofessional salaries 2.3%
  • Custodian salaries: 2%
  • Utilities: 6%
  • Liability insurance costs: 5%
  • Transportation costs: 4%

According to a budget goals and assumptions document prepared by Smith, total salary increases will be partially offset by an approximate staff turnover of 3%. The document also notes that the district will:

  • Examine and implement cost efficiencies where possible.
  • Comply with federal and state mandates.
  • Honor collective bargaining agreements.

The Board of Education will next meet Thursday, Dec. 6, at 7 p.m. for an organizational and regular meeting in the Wilton High School Professional Library.

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