WALLINGFORD — The Board of Education plans to give back $411,000 of the $1.6 million funding increase allocated to the board in Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr.’s 2018-19 budget proposal.
School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo told the Town Council Thursday that the board was able to reduce its budget from what it initially requested from the mayor for 2018-19 in March due to adjustments in projected costs for line items such as electricity, severance payments and special education tuition.
The board was also able to cut the budget by $316,000 by choosing to pay for certain one-time expenses in the budget with surplus money the board is expected to have at the conclusion of the 2017-18 year. None of the budget adjustments will impact programming for students.
Menzo said the board wanted to give the $411,000 back to the Town Council, rather than keep it in the budget, to avoid finishing 2018-19 with a large surplus.
“We obviously know that there are many things that the Board of Education can do with that $411,000, however, we wanted to (have) full disclosure with the Town Council,” Menzo told the council during a budget workshop Thursday. “It would either be pay now or pay later in the sense that we’d have a surplus next year that everybody would question and that was not something we wanted as a board.”
The reductions brought the board’s budget down to $101.78 million, a 1.18 percent increase over the current year’s budget. Dickinson gave the board a budget of $102.1 million in his proposal, which the council is able to adjust.
The board originally asked for a budget of $102.9 million, a 2.42 percent increase over the current year. That request was later augmented by a $1.1 million request for school security items.
The council could still ultimately vote to allocate the $411,000 to the board when it votes to adopt a budget on May 8.
Town councilors said they appreciated school officials’ efforts to reduce the budget.
“There’s obviously pressure on the council to find tax savings for the taxpayer,” Republican Town Council Chairman Vincent Cervoni said. “This is certainly a step in the right direction ... so I would certainly express my appreciation.”
“This is shocking,” Republican Councilor John LeTourneau told school officials. “I’ve been up for 11 years and I’ve never had a school board say we’re going to give money back ... it’s refreshing to see that.”
Many of the reductions were made to expenses that are projected to be lower next year than originally anticipated, including a $376,038 reduction in special education tuition at private schools. While the school board is required to submit a budget request to the mayor each year by March 1, many of the projected costs in the budget change after the request is submitted.
Some of the reductions made were offset by $343,476 in increased costs from new teachers the district needed to hire as a result in enrollment increases, as well as increased costs to special education tuition at public schools.
The new budget presented by the board Thursday will include four mental health professionals the board is seeking to hire to address mental health needs in elementary schools.