School budget review continues in Wallingford

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WALLINGFORD — The Board of Education held its second budget meeting on Wednesday via Google Meet, where board members and central office staff members reviewed the 2023-24 sustained services, food services and strategic plan budgets. 

James Bondi, food service director, kicked off the meeting by reviewing the proposed 2023-24 food services budget. Total expenses are projected to be just under $2.4 million, with a surplus of $433. 

Bondi said the total projected revenue for the upcoming school year is just under $2.4 million, which includes breakfast revenues, lunch revenues, ala carte and adult meals, catering and other forms of income, state grant payments, breakfast reimbursement, lunch reimbursement and bank interest. Breakfast is now served at all school levels — elementary, middle and high school. 

Total food cost is projected to be $981,458, which is about 41 percent of revenue. Paper cost is projected to be $71,814, which is 3 percent of the revenue. This makes the total product cost to be just over $1 million.

Payroll includes employees, uniforms allowance, medical benefits and insurance, which is projected to be just over $1.2 million. Other direct costs, such as electricity and mileage is projected to cost $97,565. 

Sustained services budget

Superintendent Danielle Bellizzi presented a sustained services budget for the 2023-24 school year at $116,397,236, a 5.91 percent increase from last year’s. 

Dominic Barone, business manager, went over specific details with the Board of Education at this week’s meeting, which included contingency, certified salaries, non-certified salaries, insurance and professional and technical services. 

For certified salaries, Barone discussed new positions being added and the approved teacher’s union contract, which results in a general wage increase of 1.75 percent. 

“We’re adding 2.4 teaching positions and two of those positions are elementary school teachers based on class size and then the 0.4 is a Latin teacher that we believe we are going to need at one of the high schools,” Barone said. 

For the non-certified salaries, Barone said the district is adding 4.5 paraprofessional positions “based on student need and also I think a couple of them are because we are adding classes at the elementary schools” for the upcoming school year. 

“The rest of this is primarily driven by labor agreements that we have and that’s what’s driving the increases here,” Barone said.

The medical insurance for employees will have an increase of 13.8 percent, but a solidified rate will be released in March. 

“We don’t know if that is going to change, we will revisit it one more time but that’s the number we were given by our consultant so that’s what we’re going with,” Barone said. 

Barone also pointed out that pupil services will have an increase of about $340,000, which is due to student needs.

“We have a lot of different needs and these are primarily services we provide through contractors that are specialized in these types of items,” Barone said. 

For utilities, Barone said they are projecting a 5% increase in electricity rates and there is going to be an increase in price for transportation. 

“Part of that is when we switched (transportation) vendors, because we had already set our budget, we couldn’t impact this year’s dollars, we asked them to hold steady on what we were paying for the prior contract and they needed to make their increases in years two through five of the contract,” Barone said. “Next year will be year two.” 

Under the miscellaneous section, the Board of Education will use part of its $31,473 allocated budget in the sustained services overall budget to have a consultant work with them and administrators on the strategic plan. The consultant will come in the spring and work through the summer to review the plan.

“We haven’t done it in a long time and revise it, so he would come in and help facilitate that with different stakeholders and take us through that process,” Bellizzi said. 

Strategic plan budget

Bellizzi also proposed the prioritized 2023-24 strategic plan budget, which is for the top three projects that the district wants to focus on for the upcoming school year. Her proposal is for $327,668. These projects are adding a set of instructional coaches for the elementary schools, hiring an assistant to building and grounds to assist Marc Deptula, supervisor of building and grounds, with maintaining the school grounds and updating cyber security software. 

At this week’s meeting, Bellizzi touched upon why hiring an assistant to Deptula’s position would be beneficial.

“Marc is doing a lot, it is a large district, there are many projects going on at one time, there’s many components to Marc’s job,” Bellizzi said.

This week, Barone shared with the board seven other projects that are also a priority for the district, but were not included in the prioritized strategic plan budget for 2023-24.

Some of these include putting up ballards at Lyman Hall High School and Sheehan High School, updating teacher laptops, replacing iPads for grades pre-kindergarten through second grade and hiring an assistive technology specialist. 

“The Strategic Plan is the direct product of the on-going work of steering committees in the following areas: community partnerships/outreach, curriculum and instruction, district climate, facilities, special education and technology,” according to the 2023-24 budget fact sheet

There will also be capital project requests, which need to be considered for bonding by the Town of Wallingford. This will be about $2,310,000 for the turf and track renovation at Sheehan High School, the softball field renovation at Lyman Hall and the school gymnasium floor at Pond Hill Elementary School.

Next step

At this week’s meeting, central office staff members went through the overall strategic plan, organized by committee and goals. 

Some of the sections included adult education, curriculum and instruction, facilities and special education.

On Monday at 6 p.m, the Board of Education will be meeting again via Google Meet, where they will pick up where they left off. The board will continue going through the overall strategic plan, starting with food services. The public can watch the meetings through the district’s YouTube account

jsimms@record-journal.com203-317-2279Twitter: @jessica_simms99


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