Board looks to increase school budget

The Wilton Board of Education asked Superintendent Kevin Smith during its Feb. 1 meeting to increase the proposed school budget for 2018-19 by $334,000 — bringing proposed spending from $82,168,952 to $82,502,952.

After hearing from principals and administrators about programs and projects excluded from the proposed budget, the education board asked Smith to put the following items back into the budget:

  • One social worker ($124,000).
  • One English language learner (ELL) teacher ($86,000).
  • One special education administrative assistant ($63,000).
  • Textbooks ($61,000).

With these changes, the proposed budget now reflects a 2.38% increase over the district’s current budget. The budget originally proposed by Smith reflected a 1.98% increase.

Board members like Laura Schwemm, Lory Rothstein and Glenn Hemmerle were bothered by the lack of funding for textbooks in Smith’s proposed budget.

“I think that we need to fund initiatives we’ve begun,” said Schwemm, adding that the district put “a lot of time” into its one-to-one program, “a lot of energy” into professional development and “a lot of money” into infrastructure “with the idea that we’re not updating digital subscriptions.”

Rothstein said she “strongly” supported the addition of the social worker, ELL teacher and digital textbook subscriptions.

“Those three things, to me, seem like a no-brainer,” she said. “They should absolutely be in our budget.”

As for textbooks, Rothstein said, to not provide next year’s students with digital textbooks would be “insane” and “a step backwards.”

If the proposed budget did not include textbooks, Hemmerle said, the board would be “violating a vow” it made to “not do anything, ever, that would impact or harm the classroom.”

“It boggles my mind that we would even consider not being properly equipped, properly prepared for our students to have the access they need to learn,” said Hemmerle.

“I strongly feel that we’ve got to go back and add back whatever we need to get our libraries up to date. We need to be current. In no way, shape or form can we not have textbooks — be they digital or hardback.”

The Board of Education expects to receive a revised budget from Smith, which will be the focus of its joint meeting with the Board of Finance on Tuesday, Feb. 13, at 7:30 p.m. in the Wilton High School Professional Library.

The Board of Education is slated to vote on the budget during its next meeting, on Thursday, Feb. 22.

For more details on the board’s decision, see the most recent Notes From the Board Table.