In a budget workshop with the Board of Education last week, Superintendent Gary Richards presented his proposed budget, which calls for a 4.66 percent increase in spending over the current year.
The proposed spending increase, according to Board of Education Chairman Bruce Likly, far exceeds the 1.75 percent increase targeted by the Board of Finance. However, it is down from the original budget that Richards presented back in December, which called for 5.42 percent increase.
“We are of course very mindful that as it stands now, the budget exceeds the guidance offered by the Board of Finance,” Likly says. “But it’s important to note that we are far from finished with our deliberations."
A number of factors are driving the proposed spending increase, he said. Among them is the fact that special education obligations are expected to increase by 9.65 percent next year.
“These include providing services for students’ with complex learning and functional needs; additional supports as mandated per Individualized Educational Programs and increase in contracted specialized services,” says Likly. “While mediations and outplacements have shown an increase, the overwhelming majority of students with special needs are educated in district with their typical peers.”
In addition to special education obligations, Likly says the district’s contractual obligations will rise by 2.3 percent. These include, for example, staff salaries and benefits, fuel costs, bus/transportation costs, and legal fees.
Aside from obligations, Likly says the draft budget includes some “positive very expenditures that will move the district forward.” For example, the budget reflects staffing adjustments to meet the board’s recommendations for class size averages of 18 to 20 students in grades K-1, and 20 to 22 students in all other grades.
Likly says the budget also allows for the continued investment in technology, including the purchase of iPad and Chromebooks carts, and a foreign language lab at the high school.
There’s also a proposed $332,000 allotment for school security improvements recommended by the district’s Security Task Force, says Likly. The recommendations range from an additional school resource officer, to increased mental health staffing.
“We are hopeful that we can share some of these costs with the town, but as of now the costs are included in our operating budget,” he says.
The draft budget, Likly says, does not include revenue generated from student participation fees, which were implemented this current school year. The one-time fees, paid by students participating in extracurricular clubs and athletics, are expected to generate $176,000 in revenue for the district this year, he said.
Richards will present his proposed budget during a public town hearing next Thursday, Jan. 23, at 7 p.m. in the Middlebrook School auditorium.
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