$80-million budget proposed for Wilton schools

Superintendent Kevin Smith has proposed a $79,956,024 budget for FY15 — a 1.98% increase over the current $78,401,125 budget.

The primary budget drivers in Dr. Smith’s proposed budget, which he presented to the Board of Education on Dec. 18, were contracted salary increases, employee benefits and other purchased services.

The superintendent’s proposed budget breaks down as follows:

  • Salaries: 60.5%;
  • Employee benefits: 17.3%;
  • Contracted services, outplacement supplies and equipment: 13.8%;
  • Transportation: 4.5%;
  • Buildings, operations and facilities: 2.9%;
  • Substitutes: 1%.

Dr. Smith also proposed $3,865,367 for special education tuition next year — an $813,609 increase over the current budget. He said this increase is due to an increase in outplaced students and mediated legal settlements in recent years.

The school district received 70% to 75% of its Excess Cost reimbursement over the last four years, according to Dr. Smith, and anticipates a 2015 state reimbursement of  $1,020,854, more or less.

Board of Education Chairman Bruce Likly told The Bulletin that Dr. Smith and his staff, along with the board’s newly created operations subcommittee, “have been working incredibly hard over the past several weeks to develop the proposed budget.

“Much of their work was guided by the feedback from the community round tables Dr. Smith held earlier this month,” said Mr. Likly. “I’m incredibly excited about the work they’ve done.”

Salaries

Dr. Smith proposed spending $49,195,566 on salaries next year — an increase of $1,145,931 or 2.38% over the current year.

At 3.2%, certified staff members would receive the highest increase, while substitute salaries would decrease by 3.94%.

According to Dr. Smith’s proposal, this increase is “mainly contractual” and the education board has made a “conscious effort to have contracts reflective of today’s economy.”

The teacher’s contract has a small general wage increase for teachers at the top salary step and only step movement for those who are not yet at the top level, according to Dr. Smith.

The proposed budget reflects a decrease of 4.3 FTE.

Employee benefits

Noting that more than 60% of school district employees will be in the high deductible health plan next year, Dr. Smith proposed $13,825,967 for employee benefits — a “significant decrease” of $1,084,821 or 7.28% over the current year “due to favorable claims history.”

Dr. Smith’s proposal also reflects a “significant decrease” in town retirement contributions — a plan that has been closed to new employees since 2011 — due to “favorable investment performance.”

Services, supplies and equipment

The superintendent proposed spending  $3,671,989 on professional services — a $610,692 or 19.94% increase over the current year.

Special education legal fees, independent evaluations and services to students would account for 62% of the increase. Other district legal fees, the Safe School Climate initiative and Improving Special Education Outcomes study would account for 29%, and professional development would account for the remainder.

Dr. Smith proposed a $9,969 or 0.67% decrease in overall supplies and a 9.29% increase in textbooks, which he said would be offset by decreases in most of the other supplies.

He also proposed a $48,373 or 4.49% increase in equipment spending, most of which would be to “replace classroom furniture that has been deferred in recent years.”

According to the proposal, $204,773 would be spent on furniture and fixtures and $823,929 would be spent on technology.

Transportation

For 2015-16, Dr. Smith proposed spending $3,745,217 on transportation,  reflecting a $116,096 contractual increase.

The proposed transportation spending breaks down as follows:

  • $2,859,122 for basic transportation;
  • $711,811 for special education transportation;
  • $174,284 for athletic/other transportation.

Building operations

Dr. Smith proposed spending $1,223,427 on property services — a $14,283 or 1.18% increase over the current year.

A $104,000 increase in remodeling and major repairs, for which the superintendent proposed spending $315,000, would be offset by an $81,082 decrease in property repairs and protection, on which Dr. Smith proposed spending $545,822.

According to the proposal, remodeling and major repairs includes funding for the removal of underground oil tanks, learning commons, security, painting and other building improvements.

Click here to view the superintendent’s proposed budget.