Superintendent Proposes 5-Percent Budget Increase

More teachers, district staff, high school assistant principal and full-day kindergarten are part of what the superintendent of schools is requesting for next fiscal year totaling more than $71 million.

Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson is asking the Board of Education to approve a budget request that represents an annual increase of around 5-percent, or more if full-day kindergarten is included.

The request, which also includes the hiring of several more staff members, was unveiled for the first time to members of the Board of Education meeting Tuesday night at the .

In addition to full-day kindergarten, during the past only to be removed prior to approval, one of the highlights of the request includes money to hire two so-called instructional leaders for kindergarten through 12th grade, one for literacy and language arts and the other for math and science.

The two certified staff members would be responsible for being in the classrooms helping to coach teachers as well as helping to write new curriculum for the district, Robinson said.

The additions are needed, according to the superintendent, because the district needs to start revising its instruction to help students meet new common core standards expected to take effect in 2015, as well as in anticipation for a re-accreditation process, implementation of new assessment standards and possible secondary school reform that may take effect in 2020.

"We need to be able to work on our curriculum and conduct more professional development," Robinson said.

In recent years, Newtown has concentrated on belt tightening – eliminating around 57 positions over four years and seen small budget increases of 1-percent or less, Robinson said, though her figures don't include savings in insurance and debt service associated with the high school expansion and other projects that add to the actual budget increases.

As a result of past budgets, Robinson said, the public school system has faltered in some areas, which was one reason she said she proposed the 5-percent increase.

"The driving question that we have to deal with as we put this budget together is how do we meet these expectations in this current economic climate?" Robinson asked.

Below is a recap of initiatives, program needs and staffing requirements put forward by Robinson that contribute to the requested budget increase:

  • full day kindergarten (cost for 8.5 teachers, 7.28 educational assistants and classroom furniture will be partially offset by money saved by not having a mid-afternoon bus run for a net cost of $457,000)
  • K-12 instructional leaders, one for math and science and the other for literacy and language arts (cost would be covered by eliminating two district-level staff, one health teacher and the other music, in addition to possible grant)
  • .3 math teacher, 1 physical education teacher and two .4 reading staff at Reed Intermediate School
  • one assistant principal, one English teacher, one math teacher, one world language teacher, one secretary shared between math, social science and world language departments and one library media associate for Newtown High School
  • stipends for an indoor track head coach, gymnastics head coach and after-school study hall supervisor
  • .5 teacher for hearing impaired and .4 English Language Learner teacher, which will be offset by reduction of English as a Second Language tutor funds
  • one guidance counselor for middle school and another for the high school
  • one security staff member for the high school to allow the security director to be available to other schools in the district

Also playing a factor, according to the superintendent, are

  • building and site maintenance projects that total nearly $600,000
  • technology spending of about $300,000
  • contractual obligations for teachers, who receive 2-percent general wage increase and in some cases mid-year step movement with a 1-percent cost; as well as administrators, secretaries, custodians and nurses who receive 2-percent increase under their contracts
  • $73,000 or 13-percent increase in oil costs and $129,000 or 28-percent increase in diesel and gasoline fuel. Propane and natural gas remains steady while electricity, which moves to a new contract, will see reductions of nearly 10-percent of $155,000.
  • transportation costs will decrease by about $508,000 during the first year of the All-Star contract
  • projected health insurance increase of 3.3-percent, which would need the input of town committee formed to oversee the self-funding insurance program.

In total, the budget request comes to about $71-72 million, depending on if full-day kindergarten is included.

Few people expect the request to be approved without some modification before its submission to the Board of Finance and the Legislative Council. However, education board officials said their deliberations will begin with the request.

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homeward bound January 31, 2012 at 12:17 AM
Dave t - My comment about Bridgeport was addressing your comment, "The public's responsibility is to provide an education... Not the best education money can buy." You also threw out that I must be a teacher or married to one as if that's a bad thing, which obviously would offend all the teachers out there. The sarcasm on this board is sometimes funny, but can sometimes go to far and be offensive. The banter is overall good and it's interesting to me to learn about how others in the town think even if it's contrary to my opinion. We at least agree that business development is key to the future.
Monica January 31, 2012 at 12:31 AM
dave T As a mother of a mentally challenged, beautiful, little girl I DO take offense. Knowing that you might offend someone, apologizing prior to doing so, does not make it ok. It just makes you look callous. It has nothing to do with political correctness and everything to do with common decency. Why deliberately go out of your way to offend someone? While you may make a good point regarding what to do with the former institution I am sure you could have come up with a more intelligent way to say it so that you might be taken seriously. The moment you go out of your way to offend someone- all they hear is "blah,blah,blah" from that point on.
homeward bound January 31, 2012 at 12:36 AM
Tom B- I looked up the study over the weekend and read most, but not yet all of it. I'll post thoughts later. I do appreciate you posting it. in the meantime, I will say that I have two toddler children of my own. I provide a great deal of learning activities for them at home and they also attend a local preschool. Most everything is "play based" learning at the preschool level and yet I've seen remarkable differences in their social development and their excitement about learning since starting the program. The four-year-old preschool program goes to 1:00 p.m. and thus I like many local parents find ourselves in the situation that in a half-day K program our children will have less time in class than they did in preschool. My advocacy for full-day K is that I just can't imagine that less than three hours a day would be enough time for a five-year old to do, or learn much of anything especially in a classroom setting. Between "potty" breaks, snack time, taking coats on and off and all of the other time-consuming, yet necessary activities, how much learning or play time is left? I attended full-day K in the early '70s and never heard of half-day K until moving here.
Country Mouse January 31, 2012 at 01:14 AM
Tom Bittman January 31, 2012 at 03:59 AM
homeward, I'm pretty sure I did full-day, but back in the '60s! I don't think I ever heard of half-day until we moved here, either. But I was also used to city water, sidewalks, pools in walking distance, riding bikes safely around the neighborhood, sink disposals, etc. Here's what I think. The report says that students that are well-prepared before they enter Kindergarten excel - and it never fades. Good home, good parents, makes a huge difference. On the other hand, FDK as a program adds nothing that lasts. HOWEVER, just like the home and parents matters, I think an outstanding FDK program WOULD make a difference. All of our talk is about just adding hours. I haven't heard enough talk about how we would use those hours to good effect. The argument that convinces me is that not only are we going to do FDK (which we probably will), but this is what we are going to do with that time that will be far above what is done on average around the nation (rather than just keeping up with our DRG, and state requirements). I'd also like to hear that we will re-examine this every year or two, and compare the results (scores? absences? hold-backs in grades?) between our FDK kids and our previous half-day kids. And if we don't see improvement, we DO SOMETHING about it. In other words, I'm willing to spend the money if our administration is willing to be held accountable for results. Just a thought. We all want what's best for our kids.


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