Area school budgets start with increases

WILTON — Some have been contentious and some have been quiet, but in a comparison of proposed school budget increases across District Reference Group A, New Canaan comes in with the smallest jump so far at 1.47 percent. Most of the school boards have yet to vote on their proposed budgets.

New Canaan is followed by:

 Wilton at 2.58 percent.

 Weston at 2.89 percent.

 Darien at 3.43 percent.

 Westport at 3.43 percent.

 Redding at 3.48 percent.

 Ridgefield at 4.11 percent.

 Easton at 4.2 percent.

The towns with the greatest monetary increases were Ridgefield and Westport, where school superintendents are each seeking proposed increases of $4 million.

The towns with the highest proposed budgets are Westport at $122.3 million and Darien at $103.6 million.

The district that had the most trouble arriving at a consensus was Weston, where the proposed increase has been as high as 5 percent. The Board of Education finally approved an increase of 2.89 percent on Jan. 30, below what Superintendent William Mckersie presented. He had originally proposed a 5.5-percent increase and was told that would be a difficult number to present to voters.

Last Thursday, Weston’s board looked at the 3.2-percent increase Mckersie presented and spent several hours whittling it down before finally cutting an additional $175,000 to get under the 3-percent mark.

With enrollment expected to decline by 68 students, the bulk of Ridgefield’s spending increase would go toward increased set-asides for salaries and benefits. Interim Superintendent of Schools JeanAnn Paddyfote said no positions would be cut. In fact, the budget allows for two positions: a director of security, which is new, and a social worker.

This budget is not set in stone, the Board of Education will meet Feb. 24 to vote on a final proposal.

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New Canaan





One district that is expecting to cut staff is Darien, but despite a plan to cut the equivalent of eight positions, raises for teachers account for a 1.7-percent increase in the budget. The district is also facing higher health insurance and other employee benefits. The school board meets to approve its final budget proposal on Feb. 11.

Also facing higher health insurance costs is Westport, where the jump is 10 percent, accounting for 40 percent of the school district’s proposed 3.43-percent increase. Adding $1 million to the bottom line is the reopening of Coleytown Middle School, which involves adding 9.5 teaching positions. That would offset planned cuts of 18 full-time equivalent teaching positions. The Board of Education will vote on its budget on Feb. 10.

While Wilton’s budget jump is nearly 2.6 percent, part of that can be attributed to the addition of $600,000 for the Genesis alternative school program. That program welcomed students in September, but the money to launch it came from the town’s Charter Authority, a reserve fund, and thus is not reflected in the current school budget. If it were, the proposed increase would be just under two percent, Superintendent Kevin Smith said when he presented his budget last month.

He would like to add four full-time equivalent teachers, primarily in special education, but has cut five special education paraprofessionals.

Salaries and benefits are expected to increase 3 percent.

The Board of Education will vote on the budget on Feb. 20.

New Canaan’s budget reflects new school start times, with nearly $1 million included to reschedule bus times by adding staff and seven buses. The start times are being altered to allow older students to start school later with the first bell at New Canaan High School ringing at 8:35 a.m. Seventh and eighth graders would start at 8:35 and fifth and sixth graders would start at 9:15.

The district expects to realize savings on healthcare costs.

The New Canaan Board of Education passed its budget on Jan. 21.

The Redding and Easton budgets reflect numbers for kindergarten through eighth grade only. The districts share Joel Barlow High School and that budget has not yet been proposed.