Superintendent proposes 1.35% school budget increase
Superintendent Kevin Smith proposed an $82,983,607 school budget for fiscal year 2020 (FY20) during the Board of Education’s Jan. 10 meeting.
The proposed school budget reflects a $1,107,044 or 1.35% increase from the district’s current budget and falls below the 1.6% budget guidance recommended by the Board of Finance in October.
Nearly 80% of total spending is driven by negotiated costs like health care costs and teacher and staff salaries, as well as fixed costs like energy and transportation costs.
Smith’s proposed FY20 budget breaks down as follows:
- Salaries: $52,459,659 (3.8% increase over the current budget).
- Insurance and employee benefits: $12,552,200 (8% decrease).
- Other purchased services: $8,579,244 (4.6% decrease)
- Professional services: $5,954,897 (10.4% increase).
- Supplies and materials: $2,270,629 (0.9% increase).
- Property services: $787,552 (15% increase).
- Equipment: $245,384 (2.7% decrease).
- Dues and fees: $134,042 (6.4% increase).
The proposed budget includes funding for four new Wilton High School course and funding for an alternative school program for seventh through 12th graders. It also takes the following into account:
- Projected teacher salaries increase of 3%.
- Administrator salaries increase of 3.4%.
- Secretary and paraprofessional salaries increase of 2.3%.
- Custodian salaries increase of 2%.
- Utilities increase of 6%.
- Liability insurance costs increase of 5%.
- Transportation costs increase of 4%.
- Medical insurance costs decrease of 4.6%.
Total salary increases will be partially offset by an approximate staff turnover of 3%, according to a budget goals and assumptions document Smith prepared back in November .
Salaries and staffing
Nearly 63% percent of the overall budget increase is driven by contracted salary increases and new full-time equivalent (FTE) staffing proposals, said Smith, whose proposed salaries budget reflects a $1,795,164 increase over the district’s FY19 salaries budget.
“Despite the rather modest year-over-year increase, the proposal does request additional staffing,” said Smith, whose budget proposes the following FTE increases:
- Secondary special education coordinator (1 FTE).
- Alternative school teachers (3.0 FTE).
- Job coaches for the district’s Community Steps program (2.0 FTE).
- Kindergarten teacher (1.0 FTE).
- Part-time preschool teacher (0.5 FTE).
- Two part-time preschool paraprofessionals (0.75 FTE).
- Athletic trainer (0.5 FTE).
His budget also includes the increased FTE for the district’s digital learning director, from 0.3 FTE to 1.0 FTE.
“Budget-to-budget, this represents an increase of 7.5 FTE,” said Smith. “However, actual-to-budget, it represents a 5.09 FTE increase.”
Smith said the bulk of the increase is in special services and “reflects proposals for new or expanded programming, the alternative school, and additional coaches for the 18- to 21-year-old program.”
“From a financial perspective, we’re looking at additional special staffing really as opportunities for longer-term cost avoidance,” said Smith, adding that he’d like to address the staffing changes during the board’s upcoming special education workshop on Thursday, Jan. 24.
The proposed $560,668 increase in professional services is “tied up around technology, training and conferences,” said Smith, and “a small portion” dedicated to independent educational evaluation (IEEs) in the special education budget.
Smith’s proposed insurance and benefits spending reflects a $1,093,300 decrease over the current budget, due to “really favorable claims history” and “reduced annual required contributions to OPEB and the pension trust,” according to Smith.
The proposed $510,063 decrease in other purchased services is driven by a reduction in public tuition. Smith said there are “several sites” where the district sometimes out-places students with special needs.
“One program, ACES, we are not using in the coming year,” he said. “We had students in that program and brought them back.”
Smith’s request for supplies and materials reflects a $19,935 increase over the current budget and is driven by digital resources, some supplies for the alternative school proposal, and diesel fuel, he said.
The proposed $103,475 increase in property services includes — but is not limited to — drainage repairs at Middlebrook and locker room tile replacement at the high school.
Smith said “no major changes” have been made to the district’s equipment budget, which reflects a $6,892 decrease over the current budget.
The $8,057 increase in dues and fees, Smith said, is driven by the addition of “one new subscription,” as well as “some other standard increases.”
The superintendent’s budget takes into account a projected K-12 enrollment of 3,835 students next school year — 35 fewer students than reported in the district’s official October 2018 enrollment report .
“We have been and will continue to see a decline in total student enrollment,” said Smith, “and what that amounts to year-over-year is a net loss of 35 students [in kindergarten through 12th grade].”
Smith said the district intends to add a 13th kindergarten section, and the Miller-Driscoll Early Learning Center preschool program is projected to start next school year with 64 students. The district also anticipates having about 33 outplaced students, he said, and the Community Steps program for 18- to 21-year-olds is expected to have 10 students.
Taking all these into account, Smith said, the district is projected to have a total of 3,942 students enrolled next year.
A public presentation of the superintendent’s proposed budget will take place Thursday, Jan. 24, at 7 p.m. in the Middlebrook School Auditorium.
Before then, the Board of Education will hold three budget workshops in the Wilton High School Professional Library, each beginning at 1:
- The workshop on Tuesday, Jan. 22, will focus on Miller-Driscoll, Cider Mill and Middlebrook.
- The workshop on Wednesday, Jan. 23, will focus on Wilton High School, digital learning and technology.
- The workshop on Thursday, Jan. 24, will focus on curriculum and instruction, the district and special education.
The Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the superintendent’s proposed budget on Thursday, Feb. 21.