Wallingford superintendent seeks 6.21% rise in school spending

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WALLINGFORD — School Superintendent Danielle Bellizzi presented her proposed budget for 2023-24 on Wednesday calling for a 6.21% increase in education spending over the current year.

The requested budget is just under $116.8 million, with cost drivers including insurance, strategic plan items, transportation, salary increases, utilities and more. 

Based on enrollment and maintaining class sizes, Bellizzi said the central office team projects needing to hire two additional elementary school teachers for next school year, while increasing hours for Latin instruction at Sheehan High School by less than half a position. 

Bellizzi is also proposing that the district increase paraeducators by 4.5, as a way to support students’ individualized needs. Combined, these staffing changes alone represent a budget increase of $340,000, due to the pricing including benefits. 

Meanhile, the cost of health insurance rose by 13.8%, which Bellizzi said is “a very large increase, which increases our budget to $1,431,606.”

Next school year will be the district’s second year in a five-year school bus contract with Specialty Transportation. Bellizzi shared that the contractual increase for full size buses will be 15%, with in-district vans seeing a 6% increase. 

Along with utility price increases, severance pay allotments and staff-negotiated contractual increases, Bellizzi presented on unfunded mandates that are impacting the proposed budget. These mandates are new to the district, Bellizzi said. 

“They are ones that we are required to follow, but they are just as it says, they are unfunded,” Bellizzi said. 

She highlighted the allotted $500,000 for the Right to Read Legislation in this budget, which requires districts across the state to implement specific curricula/programs for grades kindergarten through third. Bellizzi said along with the money in this budget, more is placed in funding to pay for the total cost. 

“There is a waiver the districts can apply for, which we are pursuing, but if we are not granted that waiver, we want to make sure that we are prepared for the start of the school year,” Bellizzi said. 

Another unfunded mandate that Bellizzi shared was placing menstrual products in all of the women’s restrooms, all gender neutral restrooms and in at least one men's restroom. 

“They must be accessible to students in grades three through 12,” Bellizzi said. 

So, Bellizzi said they have allocated $65,000 in the budget for the dispensers and the receptacles. This figure, however, does not include menstrual products or additional labor.  

Within the proposed central office budget is the strategic plan budget. Bellizzi has requested $327,668 for the strategic plan, which includes the priorities of 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. 

The district was able to hire some additional instructional coaches within its COVID funding, but that will only last for one more school year. 

“Instructional coaches are used to help support our teachers with curriculum and instructional implementation, lesson planning, resources for students, model lessons in their classrooms, provide professional development, data analysis to help differentiate and support student learning,” Bellizzi said. 

Next steps

Next Wednesday at 6 p.m, Bellizzi said the board will review the food services budget during a virtual meeting. At this meeting, the central office staff will answer questions as well. Bellizzi said she will send board members, families and staff members a link today to submit feedback and questions by Jan. 23. Along with the link, Bellizzi will send a budget fact sheet. 

The Board of Education is set to approve a budget by March 1, and the mayor will establish his recommended budget by April 1 for Town Council approval. 

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


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