Fairfield BOE approves superintendent’s $182M budget
FAIRFIELD — The Board of Education approved the superintendent’s $182.3 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year on Jan. 24 without any major changes.
According to Superintendent Toni Jones’ presentation, the budget for fiscal year 2020 is about “focusing on what matters” and the majority of the budget increase is allotted to contract increases, utilities and maintenance projects.
From the total 5 percent increase, 3.66 percent of the increase is allocated to salaries and benefits, 0.68 percent to increases in utilities and maintenance projects and 0.65 percent for expected cost increases in transportation, curriculum and instruction.
Board member Nick Aysseh proposed an amendment that would reduce revenue for Open Choice, a program that helps Bridgeport students attend other school districts when space is available, from $255,000 to $237,000.
Other board members pushed back, saying that doing so could affect the district’s racial imbalance plan.
“I don’t believe it’s appropriate to change the racial imbalance plan through a budget action,” Philip Dwyer said. “I don’t mind a debate on Open Choice but let’s not try to fit that in a budget discussion.”
Aysseh’s proposed amendment failed in a 3-6 vote and the budget remained unchanged.
With no other proposed changes to the budget’s bottom line, the board unanimously approved the budget.
The total operating budget for Fairfield schools comes at $182,372,957, or a 5 percent increase from the current year’s budget.
The five percent increase represents a large request and something that town officials and administrators will consider as budget discussions continue, according to First Selectman Mike Tetreau.
“This is a 5 percent increase on the largest expense driver in our budget,” Tetreau said in his state of the town address Jan. 28. “It is the highest request in over a decade ... this is going to be a struggle for all of our boards on how to integrate this into a budget with a reasonable tax increase.”
This request also comes in at a time when the state has reduced financial aid to municipalities through grants like Education Cost Sharing.
The education budget now moves to the Board of Selectmen for review, followed by other town funding bodies including the Board of Finance and Representative Town Meeting.