The for elementary schools is one of the largest and most prominent possible items that Board of Education members will consider cutting from the proposed education budget for next year.
Late in a four-hour meeting on Tuesday, the board took up a round of suggestions from various members on where to consider cutting the budget. At a future meeting, the board will discuss and vote on each item brought up. Every item that any board member wanted to discuss was added to the long list (see below).
The Board of Education also heard from Bruce Orr, chairman of the Representative Town Meeting's Finance and Budget Committee, who made a scheduled visit to briefly address the board. The Board of Finance and the RTM will take up the budget after the Board of Education approves it.
"I'd like to see the Board of Education come in at or under 3 percent," in terms of a rise in the budget over the current fiscal year, Orr told the board. The proposed superintendent's budget, as it stands, asks for a 5.6 percent increase.
Board of Education Chairperson Elizabeth Hagerty-Ross thanked Orr for his comment, adding, "We'll see what we can do. No promises, but we'll see what we can do." No other board member responded to the substance of Orr's remark.
Either the Board of Finance or the RTM may reject the budget or approve a lower amount of overall money for the budget. The Board of Education would then have sole discretion over where to spend the money approved by the RTM and Board of Finance.
Board member Morgan Whittier suggested many of the cuts, including cutting the entire proposal to expand foreign language instruction into the elementary schools. Board members said they were putting off discussion of the cuts until later, so there was no way of determining how much support there was for any particular cut.
The cuts were all made to a proposed budget that would raise school spending in the fiscal year beginning July 1. "Cuts" here does not necessarily mean lowering current spending levels.
Schools Superintendent Stephen Falcone, who proposed the budget, made some of his own proposals for cuts, which he said were at least partly based on having new information about where spending might not be needed.
Proposals to discuss cutting (or in some cases adding to) specific parts of the proposed budget came not only from Whittier and Falcone, but also from Board of Education members Susan Perticone, Heather Shea, Clara Sartori and George Reilly.
Some of the more prominent items the board put on the chopping block:
- Proposals for one new school psychologist to work at both the middle school and high school and a social worker for the elementary schools (which together would cost about $140,000);
- A proposal to make a part-time secretary position for the school health department a full-time position (a cost of $19,015), Line 42005
- Various cuts for school technology devices, totaling $71,000, as suggested by Falcone; Whittier suggested cutting $50,000 more.
Potential added spending
Some possible additions to the budget include:
- A whopping $400,000 increase in the estimated tuition needed for sending special education students to non-public schools. Counterintuitively, this might end up saving Darien money if the estimate helps raise the reimbursement amount that the state gives to the town for special education spending over a certain amount. Shea also suggested adding $50,000 to the account for transporting special education students, including transportation to schools or programs outside Darien.
- Board member George Reilly suggested adding $124,686 for the hiring of two more special education teachers.
- Shea suggested putting $40,000 more into the account for electronic measuring services for heating oil tanks. The board was told Tuesday that during mandatory inspections of in-ground oil tanks at the schools, some of the measuring devices were not working, and one at the high school appears to be damaged. The $40,000 is a rough estimate. Michael Lynch, who was hired last year as director of facilities and operations, said the school district may not have performed necessary maintenance with the measuring devices, and that recordkeeping regarding their maintenance was spotty.
- Shea also suggested raising the estimate for summer school revenues by $30,000.
LIST OF POTENTIAL CUTS
The following list is organized by budget area (or "Responsibility Center," usually shortened to "RC" and numbered). Each person who proposed a discussion of a cut usually appeared to be in favor of that cut, but in a few cases, board members said they just wanted to discuss a particular account. The amount proposed for cutting is in parentheses, unless the item is a proposed addition of money (identified by the word "ADD" in capital letters).
The budget lines are identified for those that were mentioned during the meeting (there are a small number of exceptions). The lines can be looked up in the superintendent's proposed budget document, which is attached to this article.
Darien High School (RC 1)
Bell: 1 proposed new teacher ($62,344), no line given
Whittier: textbook replacements: (undetermined amount) historical fiction books, Line 22002
Whittier: professional development ($3,075), Line 25003
Whittier: rentals/leases ($6,700), Line 83003
Shea: high school clubs, providing a second advisor for rugby club (ADD $2,300), Line 102001
Middlesex Middle School (RC 2)
Falcone: science teaching supplies ($1,000), Line 24009
Falcone: miscellaneous office supplies ($1,000), Line 25001
Sartori: audio-visual tech-consumables (cut an indeterminate amount from the $4,000 budget), Line 23010
Shea: professional development ($3,000), Line 25003
Whittier: same account ($5,000)
Physical Education and Athletics (RC 11)
Sartori: proposed interscholastic rugby team ($6,375), Line 101002
Sartori: travel for proposed rugby team ($1,600), Line 52008
Sartori: uniforms for rugby team ($1,400), Line 102001
Whittier: improvement of sites ($9,000), Line 121000
Shea: athletic training services ($2,000), Line 41006
Shea: payment for YMCA facilities custodian ($1,500), Line 61004
Shea: weight room at Darien High School ($850), Line 101001
Shea: sports programs at Middlesex Middle School ($420), Line 100105
Shea: intramural sports at elementary schools ($103), Line 100108
Maintenance (RC 12)
Falcone: various tree removal and car maintenance accounts (total of $25,825), various budget lines, incuding 65002, 62004, 72016, 72019, 73010, 72013
Whittier: ($5,000), Line 62004
Whittier: operation of vehicles ($10,000), Line 65002
Whittier: grounds supplies ($15,000), Line 65003
Whittier: intercoms and clock repairs ($5,000), 72013
Whittier: building repairs ($25,000), 72016
Whittier: security, safety and alarms ($6,500), 72021
Shea: part of a reserve for electronic measuring services for oil tanks (ADD $40,000), Line 72016
Sartori: snow removal ($10,000), 62003
Sartori: HVAC—heating, ventilation, air conditioning ($2,000), Line 72048
Falcone: use of fields (ADD $10,000), Line 120009
Falcone: computer software and supplies ($1,000), no line given
Music (RC 13)
Perticone: music teacher accompanist stipends for concerts ($1,000)
Sartori: cut at the discretion of education officials ($7,360)
Technology Plan (RC 15)
Falcone: various cuts (total $71,000, including $18,700 cut from research and development), Line 123021
Whittier: entire research and development account ($68,700), Line 123021
Bell: learning lab tools ($7,000), line unspecified
Bell: software upgrades ($4,000), line unspecified
Administration (RC 16)
Shea: school district memberships ($16,261), Line 13016
Health (RC 17)
Whitier: making a part-time secretary position a full-time position ($19,015), Line 42005
Sartori: school physician services ($1,000), Line 42003
Shea: professional development ($250), Line 25003
Personnel (RC 18)
Shea: recruitment ($5,000), Line 13014
Shea: "certified staff column change" ($3,000), Line 11028
Bell: budget control, half of a full-time equivalent position ($31,172), Line 31000
Reilly: budget control, add two staff members, two teachers for special education (ADD $124,686), Line 31000
Curriculum (RC 19)
Falcone: language materials: textbooks ($23,000), Line 22001
Falcone: curriculum development ($1,000), Line 21312
Shea: textbooks in the middle and high schools, SRBI ("Scientific Research-Based Intervention") materials used in identifying students who need help from the special education program ($5,500), line not specified
Bell: curriculum research and development ($5,000), Line 25005
Whittier: same account as above ($10,000)
Finance (RC 20)
Shea: software maintenance ($20,000), Line 013035
Library (RC 21)
Shea: operating budget in this area ($9,000), line not specified
Summer School (RC 23)
Shea: higher estimate for summer school revenues (ADD $30,000)
Special Education (RC 24)
Falcone: consultant services ($20,000), Line 12001
Falcone: legal services ($15,000), Line 12004
Falcone: ABA therapist consultants ($12,120), Line 12006
Shea: special education transportation (ADD $50,000)
Sartori: reduce a 0.5 full-time equivalent position for an administrative assistant related to legal affairs ($28,756)
Sartori: proposed psychologist ($70,000), Line 21403
Bell: proposed social worker ($70,000), Line 21404
Shea: tuition, non-public schools (ADD $400,000), Line 143001
Fixed Expenses (RC 25)
Falcone: regular pupil transportation ($5,000), Line 52001
Falcone: electricity ($10,000), Line 64002
Whittier: water ($9,122), Line 64001
Whittier: equipment at Middlesex Middle School ($4,935), Hindley ($3,000), Holmes ($7,900), Ox Ridge ($3,000), Royle ($2,800), but not for Tokeneke, which would use its money from this account for desks and chairs in a new classroom, Line 34835
Correction: The Representative Town Meeting Finance and Budget Committee was erroneously called the Representative Town Meeting Finance and Bonding Committee in an earlier version of this article. The correct name is the Representative Town Meeting Finance and Budget Committee.