Wallingford school spending increase explained

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WALLINGFORD — The Board of Education delved into the nearly $110 million school spending proposal for the next fiscal year during its first budget workshop this week.

On Wednesday night, members of the board’s operations committee received an overview of the $109,840,683 budget School Superintendent Danielle Bellizzi presented to the board on Jan. 19. If adopted, the budget would represent a 2.93 percent increase in spending over current levels.

The district’s budget is split into two parts. The sustained services budget includes items such as salaries, utilities and health insurance. The strategic plan has longterm projects, such as major repairs, upgrades and construction.

The superintendent’s budget recommends $108,844,786 for sustained services, a 1.99 percent increase over current spending, and a $995,897 strategic plan, a 0.94 percent increase.

The largest increase in the proposal is the cost of personnel, which would go up around $1.8 million.

Based on the district’s existing labor contracts, teachers are set to receive a 1.65 percent raise, nurses will see a 1.75 percent increase and administrators will receive 1.99 percent more. Teachers also receive graduated raises based on the number of years they’ve been with the district, which averages out to an additional 1.25 percent increase.

Paraprofessionals are also receiving a 1.75 percent raise and the budget would increase the number of positions.

Declining enrollment, rising tuition

Reflecting declining enrollment levels, the budget would cut two elementary school teaching positions. Since the district is seeing an increasing number of students requiring special education services, the proposal calls for adding a special education teacher, an English language teaching position and a clerical position for special education.

The tuition the district pays to Area Cooperative Educational Services for outplaced students is also set to rise $636,114, while declining state reimbursements for outplaced students will cost an additional $282,609.

“One of the biggest drivers to the increase (in tuition costs) is ACES increased their tuition and we have a significant number of students in ACES schools. So I believe it was 5 percent … which is a lot for us,” said Aimee Turner, assistant superintendent for special education.

The district’s allocation for health insurance is set to rise by around 8 percent, a $438,113 increase.

Though overall utility costs are expected to remain approximately the same, the cost of natural gas and oil for heat is expected to increase significantly, up 60.46 percent for oil and 48.50 percent for natural gas, for a total increase of $579,418.

“This current year we’re paying $1.42 a gallon. I estimated $2.28 a gallon because that’s what it was about a week or so ago while I was putting together the numbers,” Business Manager Dominic Barone said.

Transportation, food service

The district is seeing some savings in transportation through reducing four after school routes to homes and reducing the allocation for special education transportation to better reflect past trends. The budget would reduce transportation spending by almost $1 million.

“We’ve reduced four home school routes,” Barone said. “We’ve reduced some of our special ed transportation … we kept showing a surplus for several years, so we made an adjustment there of $594,000.”

A projected surplus in the cafeteria budget this year allows administrators to project that the district’s food service program will return to being cost neutral next year. Barone said prior to the pandemic, the district largely only provided funding to the program to cover the cost of equipment or unexpected maintenance, however COVID-19 caused additional expenses. Last year the district provided $144,615 towards the food service program and over $350,000 the two years prior.

“Once COVID hit we ended up supplementing them because of all the lost revenue they’ve had and we’ve continued that through this year,” Barone said. “And the hope is that they’re going to be self sufficient going forward.”

dleithyessian@record-journal.com203-317-2317Twitter: @leith_yessian


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