The Board of Education early Wednesday narrowly approved a 1.75 percent raise for Superintendent of Schools David G. Title, after voting 7-2 to extend his contract by another year.
The board's votes followed a nearly three-hour, closed-door meeting to evaluate Title, who took the reins of Fairfield's school district on July 1, 2010. Two weeks ago, the board met behind closed doors for more than three hours to discuss the same issue.
"We thank the superintendent for another year of leadership. We do know it was a tough year," Philip Dwyer, chairman of the school board, said after the votes. "We look forward to working with you for another three-year period."
Dwyer said the 1.75 percent raise would apply to each of the following three categories: Title's base salary of $235,016; a tax-sheltered annuity of $22,500, and a deferred compensation payment of $22,500. Title's total nnnual compensation would rise from $280,016 to $284,916, an increase of $4,900. His contract with the board now runs through June 30, 2017.
Title declined immediate comment as the meeting ended about 2:15 a.m. Wednesday, citing the lateness of the hour.
Republican board members John Llewellyn and Eileen Liu-McCormack voted against both extending Title's contract by a year and giving him a 1.75 percent raise. The other two board members who voted against giving Title a 1.75 percent raise -- but who voted in favor of extending his contract -- were Republican Paul Fattibene, the board's vice chairman, and Democrat Donna Karnal.
"Too many fiscal surprises this year. We still don't have near the level of transparency we need," Llewellyn said after the meeting of why he cast votes in opposition.
Liu-McCormack said the motivation level to improve the school district wasn't where she would like it to be.
Dwyer, Jessica Gerber, the board's secretary, and board members John Convertito, Marc Patten and Jennifer Maxon-Kennelly voted to both extend Title's contract and give him a 1.75 percent raise. All are Democrats with the exception of Convertito.
Patten said he supported both the contract extension and raise because, "It shows the superintendent that he's appreciated, that we value him and the job he's doing."
"It's a vote of confidence in the guy who's in charge of the school system," Patten said, adding that while the vote on Title's raise was 5-4, the vote to extend his contract was 7-2. "He's on the right track."
Fattibene said he voted against the raise because he thought Title's "existing compensation package was reasonable and fair."
"The district had a difficult fiscal year," Fattibene said. "I thought it was appropriate to not have an increase. Fiscal times are difficult and it's a fair compensation package."
Karnal echoed Fattibene's comments in saying why she voted against the 1.75 percent raise. "The town has fallen on fiscally hard times and Dr. Title is one of the highest paid [superintendents] in the state," she said.
The difficult fiscal year that Llewellyn and Fattibene referred to included cost overruns in the special education program which left school officials several months ago saying the town may need to cover a deficit in the Board of Education's budget this fiscal year. But the board implemented cost-saving measures and is actually projected to end the fiscal year on June 30 with a surplus of $36,892, according to a report Tuesday night from Doreen Munsell, the school district's director of finance and business services.
Dwyer said he wasn't concerned about the 5-4 vote to approve a raise for Title. "We've always had differences where people say, `I support the superintendent [but] I'm a budget hawk.' It's not a reflection on the superintendent. It's a financial decision," he said.
Regarding the six hours of closed-door discussion on Title's evaluation, Dwyer said the board "has been fully engaged in educational discussion and debate" and Title's evaluation "was no different."
The roughly two dozen people in the audience for Tuesday night's board meeting left by the time the board ended its closed-door meeting and met in public about 2 a.m. Wednesday to vote on Title's raise and contract extension. None of the audience members spoke about those matters during the public comment portion of the meeting.
Potential raises for Title are voted on an annual basis by the school board. In June 2013, Title received a 1.75 percent raise and had a year added to his contract.