1.51 percent budget increase sought by Waterford school board

Waterford - The Board of Education's proposed 2013-14 budget contains a 1.51 percent increase, an achievement the superintendent of schools is calling one of the lowest year-to-year budget increases in Waterford history.

A special board workshop on the proposed $44.8 million budget - a $666,196 increase over this year's budget - is scheduled tonight at 7 in Town Hall.

Residents and members of the town's Representative Town Meeting are encouraged to attend, Superintendent of Schools Jerome Belair said Wednesday.

"This is our smallest increase in a long time," he said. "... We put forward a budget of need and a budget that sustains our academic programs and our tradition of excellence, and we're pretty proud of that."

Increases in tuition costs for the region's magnet and vocational technical schools and salaries to support the district's proposed staffing plan next year - $430,161 and $569,016 respectively - contribute to nearly one percent of the 1.51 percent increase and are the "main drivers" of the increase, Belair said.

Many magnet schools have increased their tuition fees for next year, and because Waterford sends approximately 100 students to those schools, the town is obligated to pay for those costs, which add up to a $110,198 increase.

As part of its $569,016 increase in salaries and a "combination of more efficient scheduling and a reduction in enrollment," Belair said, the district plans to reduce two full-time staff positions at the high school and reallocate those teachers to the town's elementary schools.

The district is reviewing those teachers' certifications, but Belair was unable to say whether those two positions would result in layoffs if the certifications aren't compatible with standards. Belair said there are eight retirements taking place throughout the district, which may affect the need for the layoffs.

Two new full-time positions are also proposed. A middle school guidance counselor and an elementary position to help support the gifted and talented mathematics program and help implement the K-8 Common Core State Standards would be added.

"We're adding to the middle school staff because right now it's one counselor to over 300 students," Belair said.

An undesignated position has been left open for the potential in enrollment growth despite a projected decrease in enrollment by 97 students throughout the district. The funds for that contingency position will be returned to the town if the position is not filled.

The district's "aggressive" pursuits in health care insurance negotiations over the last three years have paid off dividends, resulting in a $306,870 decrease, Belair said. The switch to geothermal heating and cooling in the new Waterford High School building will reduce the consumption of fuel oil, resulting in a $60,937 decrease. Electricity in the bigger building will be higher, but the rates will be lower because the district was able to lock in generation costs.

The board will meet for a second budget workshop next Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Town Hall. Recordings of the budget workshops will be also aired on Channel 22 and will be uploaded to the school district's website, www.waterfordschools.org.



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