New Wilton education budget starts at 5.4% increase

The Wilton Board of Education took a preliminary look at the proposed 2014-15 budget, which could feature at 5.42% increase if accepted.

The conversation was held inside the Professional Library at Wilton High School during the afternoon of Dec. 19, outside the normal evening meeting.

The budget, which would total $80,264,934, represented an increase of $4,124,829.

Charts handed out by the Board of Education indicate a large portion of the increase would go to existing staff, at just under $1 million. Staff replacement would take up another $156,000.

The goal, according to the notes on the chart, is to add three teachers at Wilton High School based on enrollment. At Cider Mill School, two paraprofessional positions would be converted to special education teacher positions.

This “creates cohesive, house-based instructional teams consisting of classroom teachers, special education teachers, and reading specialists (consistent with the models at Middlebrook and WHS),” said the report.

Cider Mill would also add one full-time specialist position, moving up from part-time. The goal here is to “reduce the need to pull teachers away from instruction.”

The proposed budget would not increase here, however, as adding a staffing specialist would be offset by reducing fifth grade sections by one. The projected fifth grade class size would jump from 20.7 to 22.2.

At Middlebrook School, one math teacher would be added for special education and general education interventions. However, that cost would be offset by decreasing paraprofessional support.

In special education, outplacement tuition would rise due to a 60% increase in the number of mediation and settlement cases during the current fiscal year.

“We expect to continue to see a high number of mediation requests into 2014-15,” the report said.

With outside services assisting due to increasing caseloads in special education, the feeling is that adding a full-time employee would help reduce the contracted services. A new teacher for hearing-impaired students, along with a speech therapist and an occupational/physical therapist, would provide needed relief.

The Wilton Security Task Force has recommended that two full-time security personnel be added, with a further recommendation that the town hire a school resource officer, primarily based at Middlebrook School.

The task force has not formulated the job description, but has said it would like a person who would be responsible for being involved with threat assessment. Additionally, this individual would take proactive measures to promote a positive school community.

The next budget study and review session is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 9, at 3 p.m.