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RTM Education Committee Report on Darien Education Budget

Before the Representative Town Meeting voted to approve the 2014-2015 education budget, it heard from Dennis Maroney, chair of the Education Committee, who gave the RTM his committee's report on the proposed budget.

Here is the prepared text in full:

Good evening, I am Dennis Maroney from district 3, Chair of the Education committee of the RTM

I would like to move 14-13 B, an appropriation of $88,135,967 in the General fund for the Education operating budget.  Do I have a second?

The 2014-2015 Board of Education's recommended budget balances the educational excellence in which Darien prides itself along with fiscal responsibility. 

The process began in the fall with specifications and requests from each department which were evaluated and then finally presented in the Superintendent’s proposed budget in January. 

This budget was reviewed line by line, item by item over to tonight’s meeting to vote on the budget.

The 2014-2015 Board of Education recommended budget is driven mostly by personnel increases.  There is a new proposed director of human resources and seven new facilitators for special education that drive the majority of the increase. 

We are currently the only system in our DIRG [DRG] that does not have a director of human resources and with a staff over 700 FTE Darien needs this position.  The facilitators are to comply with the State and the Special Education requirements. 

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SEE ALSO:

1st Selectman Stevenson Describes 2014-15 Spending

Ed Board Chair Hagerty-Ross on 2014-2015 Education Budget

Why Taxes Are Going up: Committee Budget Report

Town Taxes up 5.8%, But with Reval Your Bill Likely Will Vary

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The mandated Planning and Placement Team meeting or PPT has become rigorous and specialized.  The facilitators will have skills dedicated to the PPT and allow the district to abide by the law while freeing up the time of the Assistant principals who were doing the PPT currently.  

Also in this increase is something that should come as no surprise to anyone in the room tonight as this body passed the teachers’ contract three years ago which had a negotiated half step for the first two years with a full step for this upcoming budget.  This accounts for $ 1,399,090, 28 percent of the total increase.

[The] operating expenses increase is 28 percent of the recommended budget with 74 percent attributable to Special Education and legal/consulting expenses.  

There is an investment in technology which includes new smart boards, wireless network upgrades, lab upgrades, mobile cart upgrades as well as a pilot for new tablets.  

There are also increases due to the implementation of the Common Core standards as well as updated mandated teacher evaluation plans.  

Also a reorganization of the Special Education department will cost $418,000.
As an aside, the Board of Education will be requesting extra funds due to the investigations by the state Department of Education in regards to the special education programs and services along with an independent review initiated by Darien’s BOE

The decision to hire various consultants to address and rectify these issues were not in the 2013-2014 budget and will not be in the new budget, but will require additional funds.

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ANNOUNCEMENT ABOUT CHANNEL 79 REBROADCAST

[TV79, Darien's government television channel, sent out this message early Tuesday afternoon]

Dear TV79 Viewers:

We experienced some technical difficulties with our live coverage of last night's Representative Town Meeting debate and vote on the Town and Board of Education's proposed 2014-2015 budgets.  Our gear is getting old and we apologize that it's proving unreliable.

Because we could not air the first 45 minute of last night's meeting live, we are airing the entire RTM meeting (all 2 hours and 50 minutes) continually today and tomorrow.  We will also re-air the meeting starting this Friday, May 16.

We will carry tonight's Planning & Zoning Commission meeting LIVE at 8 p.m. as it hears about the proposed cell tower at the Ox Ridge Hunt Club.

Again, we apologize for last night's problems.  We are working to keep our equipment operating as best as possible.

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Our committee met on May 5, 2014 with 15 of 16 members present.  We discussed with members of the Board of Education including President Betsy Hagerty-Ross, members of the administration including interim Superintendent, Lynne Pierson and would like to thank them for their time and patience in answering out questions.

Our questions did not delve into too many specific questions regarding expenses, but questions regarding the educational output those dollars will provide.  We asked if we were in compliance with the Special Education laws fully and we are!

We discussed the need for the HR director, SRBI Key performance indicators and possible future savings,  and the use of facilitators and Asst principal roles and responsibilities.

We would like to thank the members of the Board of Education and the administration for the time and effort they put forth in crafting and developing the budget. 

This was an especially difficult year and in spite of the difficulties with the Special Education situation and the full step negotiated teacher increase the increase is in line with years past. 

That can be debated if 5 percent is normal, but the facts say that over the past five years the average has been close to 5 percent increase.  Enrollment has increased 10 percent over the past six years and the increased state mandates, special education directives, and health care have been put stress on the budget.

The committee voted to approve the request 14 in favor 1 abstention and recommend to the RTM that they do the same.

Respectfully submitted,
Dennis Maroney




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