South Windsor Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kate Carter proposed a $68.12 million budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year, reflecting a $2.6 million - or 3.97 percent - increase over current spending levels at the Board of Education’s regular meeting Tuesday.
Carter said that the budget she is proposing is consistent with those of the last two years (FYs 2011-12, 2012-13), in that this year’s version contains no padded numbers to account for anticipated cuts. Carter’s previous two budget requests came in with spending increases of 2.1 and 2.4 percent.
The Town Council passed both of those budgets without any cuts.
“The conventional wisdom in budget-building is often to ask for four if you need two, ask for eight if you need six, because there will always be cuts just for the sake of cuts,” Carter said. “I took the same risk that I took for the past two years, and have faith that if I again deliver a transparent, straightforward budget that the game of asking for more than that you need just to secure the minimum of what you need would be unnecessary.”
Over half of the proposed increase - $1.35 million - is in the area of special education, which Carter said was due to a spike in the cost of outplacements.
In addition, the proposed budget also contains funding for full-day kindergarten, new mathematics textbooks for grades 3 and 4, seven new courses at the high school (including AP Spanish Language and Culture, Engineering and Design and Italian II), and the addition of boys and girls swim teams and boys junior varsity volleyball.
The impact of full-day kindergarten on the budget, according to Carter, is $303,876, with the total cost of $522,785 offset by $219,000 of personnel and program grants. Carter said that through declining enrollment and elementary retirements, the school district would only be adding 4.5 full-time equivalent positions to the elementary staffing, of which two FTEs will be paid through grants.
“With other certified staffing reductions made across the district, our overall certified staffing is only up 1.4 FTEs even with the addition of full-day kindergarten,” Carter said.
Still, despite the the request for a higher spending increase than the previous two budgets, Carter noted that the 3.97 percent spending hike is modest compared to the 12-year average of 6.69 percent.
“The current proposal of only 3.97 percent stands in contrast to this data and not only places this year’s budget increase into context, it serves as an important reminder that merely meeting the cost of contractual salary increases has not been South Windsor’s history and should not be a goal for our future,” Carter said.
The proposed operating budget did not contain any funding for additional security measures, Carter said, because those requests will be made through the capital projects committee.
Carter said that she has had numerous discussions with the South Windsor Police Department, as well as school staff and administrators regarding the security posture of the schools in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. Many security measures being requested by other school districts have already been implemented by the South Windsor Public Schools, such as having buzzer entry systems in the elementary schools.
“This is not to say that there aren’t areas that we can and should bolster to make our schools even safer,” Carter said. “However, I want to make sure that we make thoughtful and strategic decisions that will have a meaningful impact to the strengthening of our security.”
Toward that end, Carter said she will have a third-party consultant review the security measures in the schools.
The school board did not discuss Carter’s proposal, though it appeared to be well-received.
The next steps in the budget process are as follows:
Jan. 29 - Budget review work session
Jan. 31 - Budget review work session
Feb. 5 - Budget review work session
Feb. 7 - Budget review work session
Feb. 12 - Regular board meeting; budget review work session
Feb. 26 Regular Board meeting; FY 2014 Budget Approval
March 15 - Board FY 2014 Budget due to Town Council
Correction: The original piece misquoted Carter's statement regarding asking for more than what was necessary. South Windsor Patch regrets the error.