Superintendent proposes 5 percent school budget increase
FAIRFIELD — The theme of the superintendent’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2020 is “focusing on what matters,” meaning the majority of the budget increase will be devoted to contract increases, utilities and maintenance projects.
In what will be her third and last budget cycle with Fairfield schools, Superintendent Toni Jones’ proposed 2019-20 budget came in at $182.3 million, a 5 percent increase from the current fiscal year.
“Lots of work has gone into the budget process,” Jones said. “Our team has spent time being very thorough and we’re looking now at some small items and any flexibility.”
According to Jones’ budget presentation, 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.
A novel item that will be addressed at the Jan. 24 meeting is Jones’ departure to Greenwich, effective July 1, and how the budget must be adjusted for costs involving the search for a new superintendent.
Jones said the cost would depend on how the board would want to approach the item.
“(The Board of Education) could set aside some money for the search, hiring the firm and allotting for travel expenses for the candidates. It’ll be a thorough process to plan for that search,” Jones said.
Chairman Christine Vitale confirmed board members would begin efforts to look for a new leader by compiling a list of possible candidates if an interim superintendent was necessary.
“The Board will waste no time in retaining a search firm and beginning the recruitment process. We look forward to engaging the community in the process and view as an unexpected opportunity for growth,” Vitale said Monday in an email.
The board’s recent decision to divvy up students from the Early Childhood Center between Warde High School — the program’s current location — and Stratfield Elementary is expected to save the district “more than $250,000” and better the quality of ECC programing with smaller class sizes.
The Board of Selectmen last week voted to approve seven different capital, nonrecurring project items estimated to cost approximately $2.7 million. These included security infrastructure projects, tennis courts at Ludlowe High School and air conditioning upgrades to Dwight Elementary.
A project that was unable to be approved was the Stratfield school partial roof replacement project, an item estimated to cost $85,000, falling short of the $100,000 minimum to be reviewed by the selectmen.
Jones said the education board would consider whether to include the roof replacement project for the 2019-20 year or the next one.
As of press time, the Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the budget at their Thursday evening meeting. The vote can be postponed until next Tuesday, though it needs to be sent to town hall for review by the end of the month.
Once the budget is reviewed and approved by the education board, it will head to the Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance and the Representative Town Meeting.