Superintendent proposes 3.48 percent hike in Wallingford education spending

Superintendent proposes 3.48 percent hike in Wallingford education spending

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WALLINGFORD — School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo proposed a $104 million spending plan for the 2018-19 fiscal year Monday, an increase of $3.5 million from the current year, or 3.48 percent. 

The budget proposal includes a “reduction in staff based on enrollment decreases,” but no reduction in programs, said Menzo, who presented his budget to the Board of Education.   

Wallingford's education budget is two-pronged. Menzo presents a sustained services budget, which represents costs needed to run the district as is, as well as a strategic plan budget, which includes items from the school board's long-term strategic plan.

Menzo recommended a sustained services budget of $102.5 million, a 1.99 increase from 2017-18 and a strategic plan budget of about $1.5 million, a 1.49 percent increase.  

The biggest cost drivers in the the sustained services budget include increased costs for special education tuition and employee benefits. The budget also adds spending to address  “increased (social and emotional) needs for students specifically in pre K-5 schools” and an increase in the number of students enrolled in the special education program. While the district’s total enrollment is projected to drop next school year by 50 students, from 5,858 to 5,808, the number of student enrolled in special education is projected to increase by 100 students, from 729 to 829, Menzo said. The district is also anticipating a reduction in state reimbursement for special education costs next school year. 

The strategic plan budget includes spending $204,000 to hire four social workers/psychologists for the elementary schools, spending $60,000 on a facility survey for the middle and high schools, spending $50,000 on a plow truck with a sander and spending $106,000 to hire a school resource officer for the high schools. 

Menzo said Monday his budget proposal should be viewed as a “first step.”

“I’m sure there are many who would like to see this lower,” Menzo said about the 1.99 percent sustained services increase, “but we see this as a very big step in the right direction as a community. as a school district.” 

As they’ve done in past years, board members will ask questions or comment when the board meets again on Wednesday. 

Menzo presents a preliminary budget each year in January. The presentation marks the formal start of the board’s budget preparation process each year. Typically in past years, the spending increase Menzo proposes in January gets trimmed before the board sends a budget request to Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. by the end of February. 

Menzo’s presented an initial total spending increase of 7.26 percent last year, which the board trimmed to just under 3 percent, or $2.95 million. Dickinson traditionally approves a spending increase lower than the one requested by the board. Last year, he approved a 1.8 percent increase, or $1.77 million.


Twitter: @MatthewZabierek

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