Public comment invited on school budget

The Wilton community will get two chances to comment on the proposed school district budget in the coming days.

The first is a public hearing this evening, Jan. 22, at 7 p.m. in the Middlebrook School auditorium where the Board of Education and Superintendent Kevin Smith will present a $79,956,024 recommended budget for FY16.

The second opportunity comes during what is billed as a “community conversation” or “round table discussion” on Monday, Jan. 26, from 7 to 8:30 p.m., in the Middlebrook School media center.

At the public hearing, community members may comment on the budget, but school officials may not necessarily respond. At Monday’s meeting, participants may ask questions of board members and school administrators, share thoughts and ideas about current budget priorities and make recommendations for spending or saving money.

Past increases

The proposed budget represents a 1.98% increase over the current fiscal year. Wilton’s six-year compounded school budget increase is 14.19%, the fourth highest in its district reference group, DRG-A.

In 2010, the Wilton school district had a 1.2% budget increase. It had a 1.17% increase in 2011, a 3.54% increase in 2012, a 1.75% increase in 2013, an increase of 2.82% in 2014, and a 2.97% increase in 2015.

For purposes of comparison, district reference groups are classifications created by the Connecticut State Department of Education in an effort to group together districts with similar income and education levels.

Wilton is part of DRG-A (the state’s top classification). Other towns in DRG-A are Darien, Easton, New Canaan, Redding, Region 9, Ridgefield, Weston, and Westport.

According to data provided by Weston Superintendent Colleen Palmer, the district with the lowest compounded budget increase for the past six years is Easton, with a 5.17% increase, followed by Weston at 7.70%, Redding at 7.77%, Ridgefield at 12.14%, Region 9 at 12.55%, Wilton at 14.19%, New Canaan at 17.10%, Westport at 17.30%, and Darien at 32.58%.

Dr. Smith’s proposed budget allocates 78% of its total operating budget to employee salaries and benefits and 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.

Special board meeting

A special Board of Education meeting will precede tonight’s public hearing at 6:30. The board is expected to approve bid documents submitted to the state Office of School Facilities for the “Plan Completion Test” of the ‘Temporary Classroom Phase’ of the Miller-Driscoll renovation project.

Middlebrook School is at 131 School Road.