At Thursday night’s (Feb. 2) Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Kevin Smith delivered welcome news to the BOE members: he and his administrative team have been able to find an addition $1,070,054 to cut from his original FY 2024 budget proposal that he presented in January.
With the reductions, Smith’s budget ask is now $90,792,580, which represents a 4.75% increase over the prior year’s budget, down 1.24% from his original 5.99% proposed increase.
Smith’s original budget ask was $91,869,768. Reductions reported on Thursday evening were supplemented by other smaller cost savings the superintendent had previously told Board members about during budget workshops the prior week.
Indeed, Smith said school officials have continued to work at the initial budget proposal, and have also received some significant help on the town side. For one, Town Administrator Matt Knickerbocker secured an agreement to lower the cost of electricity to the district for both the remainder of this year as well as the next. As a result, that proposed budget line dropped by $293,000.
Additionally, Smith said the Board of Selectmen will allocate American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money the town received to fund the installation of more security cameras in the school facilities, lowering that budget line by $233,000.
Other remarkable savings were secured on the medical insurance line after the district’s insurance broker identified a post-COVID “boomerang spike” of people returning to in-person doctor appointments.
“In the last six months or so, we’re seeing claim costs, the trend come down again and level off. And so we think we can take that proposed line down another $394,000. That’s really great news,” Smith said, adding that the district has also gone out to bid for a new insurance carrier and costs might drop even more.
Other smaller reductions were found in lower diesel fuel costs, training and conferences and in-district transportation.
One other notable area of reduction was in athletics transportation.
“One of the challenges that STA Transportation had is the bus driver shortage. Where that’s impacted us primarily is in our athletic runs. So consequently, as you saw last year too, we’ve had to contract out those runs to third-party providers, and we’ve been relying on companies like Elite Limousine to transport our kids — the cost of those transports are somewhere in the neighborhood of three times what STA would charge,” Smith explained.
He added that modifications made by STA adding additional drivers allowed the district to revise that item line by $83,280 less for next year.
The Board of Education will continue to discuss the budget with school administrators. As the FY-2024 Budget Approval process continues, several dates are important for residents to keep in mind:
Thursday, Feb. 9: Joint meeting between Board of Education and Board of Finance to discuss the budget proposal (7 p.m. in the Professional Library at the Wilton High School Library and available to view live on Zoom and YouTube)
Thursday, Feb. 16: BOE meeting to approve budget
Tuesday, Feb. 21: BOF regular meeting
Friday, March 3: Deadline for BOE and BOS to submit budgets to BOF (in advance of May 2 Annual Town Meeting)
Monday, March 27: BOF Public Hearing for the BOE proposed school budget
Tuesday, March 28: BOF Public Hearing for the BOS proposed town budget
Tuesday, April 11: Deadline for BOF to recommend a budget to bring to the Annual Town Meeting
Tuesday, May 2: Annual Town Meeting and Vote
Saturday, May 6: Adjourned Town Vote
Cool, I’m sure the Wilton mill rate doomsayers will come up with some other reason for why our budget increase is uniquely horrible compared to other towns’.
1.24% down, 4.75% to go…Declining enrollment should translate to declining headcount, expenses…surely you remember the clamor for bigger budgets when enrollment was trending higher.
Maybe we’d have more money if previous Boards hadn’t wasted so much on Miller Driscoll
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