Wallingford school board considers eliminating positions, strategic plan expenses to close budget gap

Wallingford school board considers eliminating positions, strategic plan expenses to close budget gap


1. School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo - $196,474

WALLINGFORD — To close a $1.2 million funding gap, the Board of Education is considering plans to eliminate four teacher positions and remove all “strategic plan” expenses from next year’s budget.

The board needs to close a roughly $1.2 million gap between what it requested from the mayor for next year’s budget and what the mayor approved in his budget proposal, released March 31.

Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. recommended an education budget of $100.51 million — a 1.8 percent increase from current spending — which doesn’t include $336,000 he is allowing the district to use for 14 different capital projects. The board requested $101.69 million, which would have increased spending by about 3 percent, or just under $3 million.

“Needless to say, this is a significant reduction, however, we have already begun working on trying to identify savings that will have the least impact on students,” School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo wrote in a blog post on Monday.

The district plans to close much of the gap by removing its strategic plan budget, a separate list of expenses the district says achieves some of its long-term goals. About $530,000 of the board’s requested $3 million budget increase would have been spent on strategic plan items. Menzo said Monday the district will move forward without any strategic plan items in the budget, which closes the funding gap to about $660,000.

Some strategic plan expenses this year included spending $140,000 to hire a early childhood coordinator for the district’s full-day preschool programs; spending $150,000 to hire two more elementary school interventionists that Menzo said would provide “remedial services in the areas of reading and mathematics” at the 3-5 grade levels; spending $16,000 to start a program to help elementary school students transition to middle school; spending $42,000 on a second district family resource center; spending $68,000 on a new IT technician position; and spending over $100,000 on new Chromebooks for students and replacement laptops for teachers.

To further trim the budget, the board could eliminate four teaching positions in response to declining student enrollment. These positions could include one elementary school position, two high school positions, and one middle school position that has been left vacant.

Menzo called the staff cut “the natural outcome of a declining population” and said the cuts will not impact services or programs for students. It is too early to say which positions will be eliminated, Menzo added.

Board member Patrick Reynolds asked whether the move would result in any layoffs during a meeting on Monday.

“It could,” Menzo said. “We can’t keep teachers to teach eight kids or five kids. I know as a taxpayer you probably wouldn’t be able to support that.”

Other cost saving measures currently being considered include eliminating an $80,000 subsidy that the board allocated to the food services account and instituting a “pay to participate” system for the district’s summer world language programming. The reductions being considered would save $1.12 million, leaving $163,000 that still needs to be reduced.

Menzo said he is recommending necessary reductions earlier this year to try to ease any angst about cuts among the school community.

“Knowing the stress that everyone is living under with the state budget, I didn’t want to contribute to that stress to the town,” Menzo said.

Town councilors interviewed in the past weeks did not object to education funding in Dickinson’s budget.

Council Chairman Vincent Cervoni called the 1.8 percent funding increase “bordering on generous” in light of a roughly $5.8 million reduction in state funding the town is facing. Cervoni said the increase approved by Dickinson “reflects the value of education in this town.”

Republican Councilor Joe Marrone, a former school board member, called the increase “generous,” saying that “if you have extra money to spend, (education) is a good place to spend it.”

The Town Council can amend Dickinson’s recommended education budget before it votes on a final budget on May 9.

The board was one of few town departments to receive a funding increase in Dickinson’s budget. Education makes up over 60 percent of the town’s overall spending.

School leaders will present the education budget to the Town Council at a budget workshop on April 27.

mzabierek@record-journal.com 203-317-2279 Twitter: @MatthewZabierek

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