Wilton superintendent addresses continuing education account

Superintendent of Schools Kevin Smith discussed the growth of the school district’s continuing education account at the Board of Education’s meeting on April 25.
The account has received a lot of attention during the budget cycle due to Board of Finance members characterizing it as a surplus. Smith said the account has grown over the years for two primary reasons.
“One is (Continuing Education Coordinator) Dolores (Tuffariello)’s magnificent work listening to the community, expanding programs and having a terrific response. So the user fees are up,” Smith said.
The second reason, which accounts for about a half-million dollars, are areas where the board was partially subsidizing the costs of the program — payroll taxes and contributions to health insurance for full-time employees.
Smith said over the past 10 years there has only been one year in which the account ran negative, 2011. He added there’s been between $25,000 and $100,000 annually in surplus contributed to the account, amounting to a total of around $1.2 million in surplus in the account.
“What I’m proposing is to expend that because we shouldn’t be carrying that size of a surplus,” Smith said.
He said they should reserve of $200,000 in case of future cost overruns or other expenditures.
“It should leave some room for Dolores because she does need to spend for those programs,” Smith said.
The remaining funds would be used to address facilities where Smith said improvements were needed. The improvements would also benefit the Continuing Education program as well as general education efforts, he said. In total, about $1.16 to $1.17 million would be spent on the following areas:

  • The culinary room at the high school will receive $400,000 in upgrades, including adding gas stoves, walk-in cooler and new furniture.

  • Similar improvements at Middlebrook’s culinary room.

  • Projects at Middlebrook and Wilton High School Library Learning Commons, totaling $175,000 for each.

  • Other needs such as new panels in the Middlebrook gym, a new Cider Mill gym divider and addition of a new divider at the Miller-Driscoll gym.

Board of Education secretary Lory Rothstein said she was happy to see the funds being used positively.
“I think this is an appropriate use of that money,” she said.
Chief Financial Officer Anne Kelly-Lenz said moving forward there would be better management of the account. Kelly-Lenz said a process has been set up to manage expenditures.
“We’re going to be able to now pinpoint everyone’s expense and it will go directly to where we set them up,” she said. “Whatever school, whatever program, whatever they are. It will be an automatic process.”
The Board of Education’s next regular meeting is on May 9 at 7 p.m. in the Wilton High School Professional Library.