After a previous delay due to weather, Superintendent of Schools Kevin Smith is scheduled to present his proposed budget for FY2020 to the public tonight, at Middlebrook Auditorium at 7 p.m.. (Editor’s note: Please follow GOOD Morning Wilton online or on Facebook for any possible weather related updates throughout the day.)
Smith’s budget comes in at $82,983,607, which reflects a 1.35% increase over last year’s budget. It’s a number that is actually below the guidance given by the Board of Finance, which suggested a 1.6% budget increase as this year’s target for the BOE.
During Smith’s budget presentation to the Board of Education members on Jan. 10, he was asked why he didn’t propose a budget that met the BOF guidance, and whether there was anything that was missing from the budget or had been sacrificed in order to come in beneath the guidance.
In response he indicated that there’s critical thinking and decision making that his team does when they craft a budget.
“We always make choices, for a variety of reasons. Could we do more? We could always do more. But we’re not always ready to do more. So we do have reasons why we defer opportunities and investments.”
That was supported by Board member Deborah Low. “If you can do the things that are checked off, just as in years where sometimes the guidance is too low, and we say, ‘But this is the budget that we need,’ this year it works a little differently, and we’re still saying, ‘This is the budget we need.'”
Smith also acknowledged that he’s cognizant of scarce resources, both locally and at the state level. “It speaks to the complexity of the environment in which we’re operating in trying to achieve our goals.”
The area where the most significant spending (and increases) occur, he added, is in staffing. “We’re a people industry, and we require people to meet our vision and objectives, and so we spend our money on people.” Included in that is a personnel increase of 7.5 FTE.
Smith did say that the district has slowed the growth of spending over the last five years, and relative to the other school districts in Wilton’s reference group (DRG-A), Wilton’s annual budget increases have been “modest…and well below our DRG counterparts.”
One other comparative metric Smith pointed out was per-pupil spending; Wilton is sixth out of the eight DRG-A districts in that area. “Wilton spends conservatively, and achieves highly,” he noted.
What’s In the Budget, and What Does the Budget Get Wilton
Smith said budget spending reflects the strategic objectives set by the educators–to promote the design of student directed learning.
“Our goal is to tweak the architecture so students have much greater voice and agency throughout their learning experiences in our schools. That’s the context for our spending priorities–that’s the big picture and the why of the direction that we’re moving into,” he explained.
He called the budget a “financial expression of a vision” for the district, with several goals in the budget to make that vision happen. Those goals include:
- Provide adequate funding to maintain and improve the high quality education provided in grades Pre K-12
- Fund two major priorities: an alternative school for grades 7-12 and hire an assistant director of special education for grades 6-12
- Target investments to advance the district’s strategic objectives
- Adhere to BOE guidelines for class size
- Maintain investment in professional development
- Fund year two of the capital improvement plan
- Fund year three of digital learning plan
- Remain within the Board of Finance budget guidance of a 1.6% increase
Among the constrictions school administrators had to deal with while building their budgets were predetermined salary increases that had been negotiated in prior collective bargaining agreements:
- teachers 3.0%
- administrators 3.4%
- custodians 2.0%
- secretaries and paraprofessionals 2.3%
Other costs set to increase outside of the control of school officials include utilities (6.0%); transportation (4.0%); and liability insurance (5.0%). There will be some expected cost decreases, however, including medical insurance (4.6% expected), and employer contributions to pension and OPEB may decrease as well.
The budget will also reflect a projected student enrollment decrease of 35 students.
Other Dates on the Budget Calendar
Thursday, Feb. 14, 7:30 p.m.: BOE/BOF Joint Meeting (WHS Professional Library)
Tuesday, Feb. 19, 8 p.m.: Board of Selectmen Meeting to approve budget (Town Hall Room B)
Thursday, Feb. 21, 7 p.m.: BOE Meeting to approve budget (WHS Professional Library)
Tuesday, Feb. 26, 7:30 p.m.: BOF Regular Meeting (Town Hall Room B)
Monday, March 4, 8 p.m.: BOS Capital Project Review (Town Hall Room B)
Wednesday, March 6: BOS and BOE budgets Due to BOF
Tuesday, March 12, 7:30 p.m.: BOF/BOS Budget Review (Town Hall Room B)
Tuesday, March 19, 7:30 p.m.: BOF Regular Meeting (Town Hall Room B)
Monday, March 25, 7:30 p.m.: BOF Public Hearing on BOE Budget (Middlebrook Auditorium)
Tuesday, March 26, 7:30 p.m.: BOF Public Hearing on BOS Budget (Middlebrook Auditorium)
Tuesday, April 2, 7:30 p.m.: BOF Mill Rate Meeting (Town Hall Room B)
Wednesday, April 3, 7:30 p.m.: BOF Mill Rate Meeting (Town Hall Room B)
Thursday, April 4, 7:30 p.m.: BOF Mill Rate Meeting (if needed) (Town Hall Room B)
Tuesday, April 16, 7:30 p.m.: BOF Regular Meeting (Including BOS Bonding Proposals) (Town Hall Room B)
Tuesday, May 7–Annual Town Meeting and Vote (Clune Center)
Saturday, May 11–Reconvened Annual Town Vote (Clune Center)