Board begins scrutinizing proposed Fairfield school budget
Published 1:21 pm, Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Superintendent of Schools David Title answered questions Tuesday from the Board of Education about his proposed $149.5 million budget for 2012-13 during the panel's first public review of the spending package unveiled last week.
Title began the discussion by answering several questions given to him before the meeting, the first concerning why he did not restore $2.8 million cut last year from the 2011-12 proposed budget as a way to help reduce a requested spending hike of 4.9 percent down to 2.9 percent.
"To lob everything back in this budget would put us at 4.6 [percent increase], and that would put us into pretty serious trouble, which is what happened to us last year," he said. "We're trying to be fiscally responsible, so it becomes a matter of priorities."
Title last week presented the school board with a spending request of $149,464,941 for 2012-13, an increase of 2.6 percent from this fiscal year's approved expenditure of $145.2 million.
Roughly half of the increase comes from staff salary increases, excluding benefits, by $2,108,083, or 2.19 percent, to $98,160,441 from this year's allocation of just over $96 million.
Almost $800,000 of the hike is earmarked for 9.2 full-time special education teachers as part of a proposed new special education staff model at the elementary level, a math resource teacher for each of the three middle schools and 1.2 math teachers at the high school level to handle growing enrollment.
Title proposes to offset the increase with cutbacks in other areas of the proposed salaries budget, such as eliminating 13.6 paraprofessionals for a reduction of $337,121 as part of the special education model. In exchange, additional certified support staff would be brought on at an additional cost of $111,526.
The proposed reduction of the number of paraprofessionals results, in part, because a large number of fifth-grade special education students will move on to middle school, said Andrea Leonardi, director of special education and pupil services.
The spending request also higher allocations in these areas:
• a hike of $950,000, or 4.7 percent, for staff benefits.
• an increase of $563,430, or 8.03 percent, for student transportation.
• an uptick of $99,309, or 5 percent, to instructional services.
During the meeting, board member Paul Fattibene asked about a proposed $240,000 increase -- to $590,000 -- for overtime for additional staff needed at school facilities during evenings and weekends.
In response, Title said the district has underestimated that expense for the past few years. For instance, he said, more than $680,000 was spent on it during the 2010-11 school year.
"We've been overspending on that line for a number of years and it's time to take our medicine," he said, adding that the district has already spent more than $318,000 in night and weekend overtime for this school year. "We're kidding ourselves by not putting in a number that's closer to reality."
He said some of the "big drivers" to the cost are overtime for storms, "non-billable" use of the facilities by outside groups and covering absences.
The 2012-13 budget also proposes $2 million in capital improvement projects, including $791,400 in window replacements at Osborn Hill Elementary School. Other projects include replacing two 1962 boilers at Dwight Elementary School at a cost of $294,000; performing $250,000 worth of front facade cornice work to Tomlinson Middle School, and replacing underground oil tanks with above-ground tanks at the high schools and six of the elementary schools at a cost of $250,000.
The board plans on continuing its discussion of the proposed budget at a meeting slated for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19, in its second-floor conference room at 501 Kings Highway East.