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School spending plans show some ups and some downs

FALLS VILLAGE — The Board of Education presented its budget plan for the coming fiscal year to the Board of Finance Monday, March 14. The proposed spending package for the Lee H. Kellogg School is down $51,135, or 2.9 percent, for a total of $1,737,584.But because of an increase in high school tuition, overall proposed spending on education is up 10.2 percent, an increase of $285,808, for a total of $3,098,800.Board of Education Chairman Andrea Downs and Kellogg Principal Maria Bulson both emphasized that the school also expects to have about $40,000 in unspent funds at the end of this fiscal year (June 30).The assessment for Region One (which includes the tuition for the town’s students at Housatonic Valley Regional High School and the town’s share of the Pupil Services and Central Office budgets) is up $336,943, or 32.9 percent, for a total of $1,361,216. (Last year’s budgeted amount was $1,024,273; 2010s budgeted amount was $986,502.)The town’s assessment is based on the number of students at the high school in the previous October (in this case, October 2010).Downs took the finance board through the proposed spending plan page by page. Teacher salaries went down slightly (minus .8 percent) and benefits sharply (minus 11.6 percent) — largely as the result of teachers at the top pay levels retiring. New teachers came in with lower salaries and less expensive health insurance plans.The plan is full of small savings, such as a reduction of $2,190 from the combination of a new office copier contract and lower usage due to increased electronic mail communications with parents.And the school has been aggressive about saving electricity, making sure to turn off lights and computers. The projected cost of electricity for the next fiscal year is down 17.8 percent, from $25,550 in the current budget to $21,000.The plan has $4,000 for an after-school program that in previous years has been run on a volunteer basis by Dom Caiati (who is a member of the Board of Education). The program includes arts and crafts, guitar lessons, fencing and, this week, a drumming class.Caiati said that attendance was usually between 30 and 40 children, and Downs said with that level of participation, the board thought it should be a budgeted line item.Last year the board eliminated one school bus route, from three buses to two. Downs said that has worked out well and the plan is to keep it that way.Also on the transportation front, Downs said teachers would be asked to keep their field trips “a little closer to home.” And the board proposes transporting students to athletic events only one way. “Coaches are telling us there are only one or two students on the return trip,” said Downs. “That’s a pretty expensive ride.”Finance board member Lou Timolat asked Downs for a “memorandum of understanding” — a letter that explains how the Board of Education’s proposed spending plan helps close the gap created by the increase in the Region One assessment. His motion passed 4-1 with Finance Board Co-chairman Kent Allyn casting the dissenting vote.Municipal spending planThe Board of Selectmen will present its proposed spending plan at a special Board of Finance meeting Monday, March 28, 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall. The most recent draft, dated March 10, shows a very slight decrease of $301 for a total of $1,543,089. First Selectman Pat Mechare said there were a couple of errors in the draft but that the bottom line would not be changed significantly by March 28.The Board of Education is having a special meeting the following night, Tuesday, March 29. The meeting will serve as its regular monthly meeting for April. Downs asked that any requests from the finance board for changes in the spending plan be relayed to her in time for the meeting.

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