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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