Waterford superintendent proposes budget with $1 million of added spending

Waterford — The proposed 2018-19 school budget increases spending by slightly more than $1 million, with increases for employee raises, health insurance and student transportation.

Superintendent Tom Giard presented his proposal to the Board of Education Thursday night, noting the total $48.3 million proposal represented a 2.15 percent increase over current spending.

The Board of Education over the next two weeks will have opportunities to suggest changes, and the Board of Finance and Representative Town Meeting will vote on the school and town budgets in May to finalize tax increases.

The proposed budget maintains or expands existing academic programs, preserves athletic programs and continues planned building maintenance, administrators said.

Giard said the proposal was "mindful of the challenging economic context, but still allows our district to progress."

Almost three quarters of the proposed increase comes from "fixed costs" and contractual obligations, Giard said. About .27 percent of the increase, about $128,000, stemmed from expenditures for software, field trips, maintenance and repairs, equipment, books and supplies.

About $826,000 of the increase includes contractual teacher and support staff raises and employee benefits.

Giard noted the budget comes after the district negotiated new contracts with teachers' and administrators' unions — deals the superintendent said would produce savings for decades.

The new contract with the Waterford Federation of Classroom Teachers reduced top salaries by 4 percent, and, along with the administrators' union contract, switched to a cheaper high deductible health care plan.

Giard said if the new contract was in effect already, as opposed to when the new fiscal year begins in July, the budget's salary line would be approximately $687,000 lower.

As teachers retire or leave the district, the savings compared to costs in the existing contract will multiply, with Giard saying the new contract would save roughly $8 million over the next 20 years.

The largest decrease in the proposed budget was a $171,570 drop in tuition the district must pay for students who choose to attend magnet schools or out-of-district special education programs. Those proposed tuition expenses total $2.36 million compared to last year's $2.53 million.

Administrators say they've ramped up marketing of Waterford school programs and an expanding pre-K program through direct mail, advertising and social media to convince more parents to send their children to one of the district's five schools.

The decline in tuition costs "tells us we're doing things right," Giard said.

Revenue is projected to dip by about $81,686, to $2.63 million. The district also expects to see an increase of state aid, from $305,215, to $322,838.

Board members, who peppered administrators with a range of questions on the costs and duties of instructional coaches, maintenance and overtime expenses, will review the budget over the next few weeks.

A recap session with time for public questions and comments is set for Thursday, Feb. 15 at 6 p.m. at the Board of Education offices at Town Hall.

b.kail@theday.com

 

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