Proposed school budget: 0.5% increase

The Redding Board of Education approved a $21,745,551 budget, a 0.5% increase over the current year’s budget of $21,635,551, at Tuesday’s meeting.

The approved $110,000 increase for the 2013-14 budget is a 29% decrease from the first proposal Dr. Bernard Josefsberg, superintendent for Easton, Redding and Region 9 school districts, presented at the Jan. 8 board meeting. The original proposal was a proposed 1.75% increase over the current budget.

The savings allowing the drop from a proposed 1.75% to a 0.5% increase were due to some technical corrections in calculations that totaled $2,580. An iPad cart was listed twice in the original budget proposal instead of once, so it was removed for a saving of $18,176. Two teachers announced retirements after this fiscal year for a saving of $65,000, said Dr. Josefsberg.

The $135,000 proposed for school security requests was removed from the 2013-14 budget proposal since this amount is headed to a town meeting on Feb. 13 for taxpayer approval. The board wanted to institute these changes this fiscal year and not delay them to the following fiscal year.

Federal grant revenue totaling $14,000 and a decrease in the anticipated premium costs for health insurance resulted in a savings of $53,866, said Dr. Josefsberg.

With these savings, the administration was able to add $100,000 into the health insurance reserve fund, for a total of $262,169. An additional $10,000 was added to the budget for a consultant to help implement teacher and administrator evaluations stemming from a state unfunded mandate, Dr. Josefsberg said.

Dr. Josefsberg said at an earlier meeting that his goals include the renewal of the hallmark of personalized learning; retain “seed corn,” meaning non-tenured or newer teachers who can grow with Redding; adapt to state-mandated changes; replenish the health insurance reserve; and blend quality expectations with taxpayer concerns, he said. Another goal, school security upgrades, is being dealt with at the town meeting.

He had also said that the budget drivers mirror the goals and relate to enrollment, professional development and staff salaries, unfunded mandates and professional development, health insurance, and physical plant and security concerns.

Enrollment is projected to decline 5.5% from this school year and staff reductions will be taken in both schools to reflect the decline, he said.

Two full-time equivalent employees at Redding Elementary School will be cut, 3.4 full-time equivalent employees at John Read Middle School and for the special education department, a 0.4 full-time equivalent employee, along with three aides, he said.

At the meeting on Feb. 5, parents expressed their concern with the cut being made to the physical education department at Redding Elementary School and questioned how it will affect the health and wellness program.

Gwen Denney of Redding said that she thought it might be tough for only two physical education teachers to teach the 26 sections of health and wellness instead of three teachers who currently teach 27 sections of health and wellness.

“Are we losing something of value?” she asked.

Other parents were concerned with the reduction of three paraprofessionals in the special education department and asked how it could affect students’ needs.

Brian Farrell, director of special education, said the reduction in paraprofessionals is not directly related to the decline in student enrollment. It is determined by a student who receives special services, he said.

“We look at how many [paraprofessionals] we need based on IEPs (individualized education programs),” he said. “It’s not a numbers game. It’s not an enrollment game.”

The town meeting to vote for the school security requests will be the Redding Community Center at 7:30 p.m.

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