2013-14 school budget: Superintendent asks for 1.55% increase

Overview of 2013-14 school budget proposal. —Ian Murren graphic

Weston Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer is proposing a school budget hike just under 2% for the upcoming 2013-14 fiscal year.

At a school board meeting Monday night, Dr. Palmer requested a budget of $46,293,668, which is $706,476 more than the current budget of $45,587,192 — a 1.55% increase.

Dr. Palmer said the major factor driving the budget increase is related to personnel expenses. “Eighty-one percent of the total budget is allocated to human resources costs,” Dr. Palmer said in a power point presentation.

The proposed budget contains $1,253,172 in salary/benefit increases: $30,730 for administrator salaries; $488,027 for salary increases and contractual step increases for teachers; $116,433 for non-certified union staff, $42,500 for non-union staff, $64,917 for staff with degree changes; $286,112 for health insurance; an additional $120,000 for a new pupil services administrator; $50,832 for additional security guards; $23,621 pension increase for non-certified staff; and $30,000 for drug/alcohol consulting at Weston High School.

On the cost reduction side, the proposed budget reflects $570,541 in cuts and savings: $93,111 cut because of teacher reduction; $202,570 for replacing retiring staff; $41,512 for technology in-sourcing, $36,000 for transportation costs; $13,250 for energy savings; $127,500 for completion of the energy education contract; and $56,598 savings for the reallocation of current year funds for security.

Overall, the proposed budget has 2.39 fewer certified staff positions and 1.43 fewer non-certified staff positions than the current budget.

Certified staff additions

Adding to the budget, the superintendent is proposing the creation of an assistant director of pupil personnel and special education position. The estimated annual salary would be $120,000.

The new position is based on a recommendation from a special education audit conducted three years ago that suggested providing additional leadership to special ed programs.

Other proposed additions are a 0.2 teacher for the Center for Academic Support and Enhancement (CASE) at the high school for students who need additional learning support in science; plus a 0.4 teacher for writing support for grades K-5.

Certified staff cuts

The district is predicting a total decline of 65 students in the 2013-14 school year: 36 fewer at Hurlbutt Elementary School, three fewer at the intermediate school, 27 fewer at the middle school, and one additional student at the high school.

Reflecting the decline, the proposed budget plans the following staff cuts:

• The equivalent of one less teacher at the elementary school as well as one less teacher at the middle school and the high school.

• A 0.2 NEASAC support staff person cut because the NEASAC study was completed last year. $30,000 allocated for the study last year is also being cut from the budget.

• A 0.79 teacher cut from special classes.

New security staff

The district currently employs five security guards, but in the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, the superintendent is in the process of hiring four more guards in the current fiscal year, at an annual salary of $26,356 each.

The new guards will monitor more closely people who are coming and going from the school buildings.

The guards will be starting mid-year in the 2012-13 budget and the schools are covering the additional costs by transferring funds from other lines.

For the 2013-14 budget, the schools are asking for an additional $56,598 increase over the current budget.

The school board will continue to review the budget proposal in the upcoming weeks. It was scheduled to meet Tuesday, Jan. 15, to discuss the budgets for the four schools and the athletic program, and Tuesday, Jan. 22, to review special education and pupil personnel services.

The school board is set to meet Thursday, Jan. 24, at 6 p.m. in the Weston Public Library to vote to approve a budget to send to the Board of Selectmen.

The selectmen will review the Board of Education budget request on Tuesday, Feb. 26.

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