BoE’s Likly: Budget Now at 4.52% Increase

It was another busy week for the Board of Education and the Superintendent Search Committee.  The Board continued its work to deliver a thoughtful and prudent 2014-15 operating budget, while also overseeing plans for indoor air quality (IAQ) testing at Miller-Driscoll.  At the same time, the search committee made progress in identifying the best candidate to lead our schools after Dr Richards retires.

The BOE held its final budget workshop on Wednesday, Jan. 29, where further consideration was given to Dr. Richards’ proposed budget. The Board will vote on the budget at its Feb. 6 meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. in the WHS Professional Library.

The workshop was very productive; with the BOE giving the Administration guidance to cut a bit further is some areas, to add an additional teacher to the high school, and to add participation fees back into the budget.  All told the Board recommended a budget reduction of $227,847.  The revised budget is now $79,584,689 which is a 4.52% increase over the 2013-2014 budget.  Details:

 

Increase(Decrease)

14-15

13-14

$

%

Regular Ed

60,674,447

59,068,657

1,605,790

2.72%

Special Ed

18,553,164

16,961,448

1,591,716

9.38%

Security

357,078

110,000

247,078

224.62%

Total

79,584,689

76,140,105

3,444,584

4.52%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is possible that an additional school resource officer currently in the BOE budget will end up in the Board of Selectmen’s budget and that the Board of Finance will propose to cover some of the district’s capital projects.  IF these two adjustments transpire, we can anticipate the school budget dropping a bit further without any impact on programming.

Indoor Air Quality

Superintendent Dr. Gary Richards has notified the community that radon testing will take place at Miller-Driscoll on Feb. 19-21, and in the other Wilton Schools during March 5-7.  As you may recall, while there are no known radon issues within district facilities, it was determined the District unknowingly lapsed in complying with a state-mandated testing schedule, and when it did test, protocol violations caused the results to be declared invalid. These tests will be completed at no additional cost to the District or Town.

In addition to the District’s radon testing deficiencies, some parents have questioned CO2 levels at Miller-Driscoll. Please know the Board takes all parent concerns seriously, and we take our obligation to investigate seriously.

I have learned a great deal about this naturally occurring gas from the several professional opinions I have received from medical professionals in our community.  If you would like to learn more about CO2, please refer to the statement on the physiology of CO2’s impact on humans written by Wilton’s own Dr. James Babashak who has children in our schools and is an anesthesiologist at Norwalk Hospital.  Both he and the District’s medical advisor, Dr. Jeanine Freliech, have put a tremendous amount of time into this topic and we are very grateful for their help.  I have been reassured by Drs. Freliech’s and Babashack’s opinions that the Wilton schools do not have concerning CO2 issues.

Instead, we do have aging HVAC units at Miller Driscoll, which is one reason the Miller- Driscoll building project is underway.  But, because some parents may still have questions, the District will conduct a full IAQ analysis of Miller-Driscoll by an independent third party.  Given this hasn’t been done since I’ve been on the board and the age of the building, this is a prudent decision.  Please be assured that all test results will be shared with our community, and that the BOE and Administration will take immediate corrective action should the assessment find any problems.  The safety and well-being of our students, your children, are our number one priority and a responsibility we take seriously.

Superintendent Search

Lastly, the Superintendent Search Committee has been working overtime with early mornings and late nights to identify and hire the best possible successor to Dr. Richards. The committee is aware of Wilton’s history of top performance and expectations for future success, each of which must occur while operating within the constraints of limited resources, increased regulations and unfunded legislative mandates.

Wilton’s strong record of academic success and tremendous community support has blessed us with an incredible pool of candidates.  The interview process has been quite interesting, and afforded us some exciting ideas for new horizons and opportunities for growth.  The committee has made tremendous progress in the past few weeks and I anticipate a decision and announcement shortly.

Stay tuned (to Channel 78)!

Bruce Likly is the Chair of the Wilton Public Schools’ Board of Education. His column, “Notes from the Board Table” appears regularly on GOOD Morning Wilton.