AP NEWS

Superintendent proposes 2.83 percent spending increase

November 13, 2018

GREENWICH — Interim Superintendent of Schools Ralph Mayo has proposed an operating budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year that includes a 2.83 percent spending increase, which exceeds the Board of Estimate and Taxation’s budget guidelines, but according to school officials would keep services flat for next year.

The budget would not be enough to cover unanticipated expenses that might pop up during the school year, officials have said.

Board of Education members have not yet voted on the proposed budget, and have encouraged district officials to find more areas to reduce costs to bring the increase down to a level that the BET can accept. The finance board has asked for increases between 1 and 2 percent.

Operating budget

The proposed operating budget for next year is $164.8 million.

Before factoring in areas for the district to save money, the budget rose by 3.03 percent. Salaries and tuition for outplaced special education students account for most of the district’s increased spending, but administrators found almost $600,000 to save in utilities and rentals — including by eliminating a rented space for the high school’s Windrose, alternative high school, and Community Connections, young adult special education, programs.

About 76 percent of the budget pays for full-time salaries, excluding benefits, which the town, not the BOE, pays for. Contractual salary increases of up to 3.6 percent would add $4 million to the 2019-20 budget and account for an overall 2.5 percent increase.

The salary increases this year would make good on an agreement the Greenwich Education Association and the BOE reached in 2016, when the collective bargaining unit agreed to go on the state partnership plan for health insurance, reducing the money the town pays teachers in benefits, GEA President Carol Sutton said.

“We saved a tremendous amount on benefits, but that savings was not reflected in an increase in salary packages that were offered to teachers,” she said.

In 2019-20, the district could spend $4.8 million on tuition for the 28 special education students placed in public and private schools outside the district. This year, the district spent $5.4 million.

Overall, eliminating the additional space for the Windrose and Community Connections programs would save $222,000; reduced utilities, $165,000; reducing staff, $143,000; and miscellaneous program and service reductions, $39,000.

Capital budget

The superintendent also unveiled a $51.1 million capital school budget for 2019-20. This year’s capital spending plan was for $20.8 million.

Major projects for next year would include improvements to Cardinal Stadium and the fields at Central Middle School, and soil remediation at Western Middle School and Greenwich High School. Board members suggested dividing these projects into phases, so next year’s budget would not include the total sum for a multi-year project.

The district’s capital budget includes $34.6 million in major projects, $3.1 million in technology investments and $13.4 million in projects that are part of the district’s 15-year plan to maintain structures and improve their safety, security and accessibility.

Cardinal Field improvements are ongoing, and would, according to the budget, cost $20.8 million for bleachers, lighting, speakers, a through road, relocating the tennis courts, adding a building, team rooms and a concession area as well as making bathrooms accessible under the guidelines of the American Disabilities Act.

Western Middle School soil remediation is ongoing, and could cost $8.5 million. The district arrived at that figure by averaging a range of estimates made by environmental consultants, and included the sum in the budget because the town requires the BOE to include potential liabilities.

Changes to the fields at Central Middle School, a holdover from the current year, could cost $4.7 million, but a concrete figure is far away since the district initiated a feasibility study this fall and projects the study will be done next year.

The district budgeted almost $1.3 million to make Eastern and Western Middle schools and North Mianus ADA compliant.

jo.kroeker@hearstmediact.com

AP RADIO
Update hourly