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Superintendent Presents Proposed 2020-21 Budget



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Superintendent of Schools Dr Lorrie Rodrigue shared her proposed 2020-21 budget with the Board of Education at its meeting on January 14: The $79,281,774 spending proposal represents a 1.51 percent increase from the current budget.

The budget effort began with school principals and district administrators presenting their proposals to the superintendent. The proposals were then reworked into the budget that was presented to the board. Dr Rodrigue said the administrative team was “deliberate in our goal of sustaining quality educational programs and services” while being mindful of the state of the economy.

Dr Rodrigue said her proposal reduced the original $80,368,829 budget proposal as presented by district administrators by $1,087,055.

The Board of Education is expected to review the superintendent’s proposed budget before approving its budget proposal for further review by the Board of Finance and Legislative Council ahead of the town’s April referendum.

“We work hard to make decisions so that the overall programs and opportunities that we offer our students, the key resources that we already have in place, continue to allow us to make improvements district-wide,” said Dr Rodrigue.

The final Superintendent’s Proposed Operating Budget Plan 2020-21 includes $51,100,777 for salaries, $11,435,283 for employee benefits, $9,339,012 for “other purchased services,” and $3,540,335 for supplies, according to the superintendent’s presentation.

Overall the $79,281,774 superintendent’s proposed budget represents a $1,177,354 increase from the current budget.

The proposal was “appropriately influenced” by the district’s Strategic Plan, Dr Rodrigue shared, to continue to prepare students for “college and career.”

The budget includes ongoing funding for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs, a plan to expand the lower levels of world language Spanish into fifth and sixth grade, professional development for teachers around social/emotional learning, and funding to support math learners, according to Dr Rodrigue.

“We have a very clear path in the programs and supports we’re offering students to help them develop their social/emotional skills, to foster positive behaviors, to manage their conflicts and their stress, and feel a sense of confidence at school,” Dr Rodrigue said.

When highlighting where funding comes from — 94.25 percent of the funding for the school budget comes from tax revenue — Dr Rodrigue said the district’s grant writer secured $284,995 in grants to support 12/14 recovery and social/emotional needs. Funding is also expected from state’s Education Cost Sharing (ECS) program and its Excess Cost Grant.

Budget increase drivers outlined in Dr Rodrigue’s presentation include salaries, benefits, and other purchased services. Items that represent a decrease in spending from the current year include supplies, purchased professional services, purchased property services, and property and equipment.

“Just to give you a rundown, supplies have gone down just under 4 percent, purchased professional services have gone down just about 5.82 percent, purchased property services have gone down just a little over 3 percent, and property and equipment have gone down just about 5 percent,” said Dr Rodrigue.

The presentation also highlighted a contracted increase for transportation costs from $3,651,623 this year to $3,758,745 next year.

The total proposed 1.51 percent budget increase over the current spending plan was broken down to being $530,829 for regular education, curriculum, and technology; $609,572 for special education and pupil personnel; and $36,963 for general services, benefits, transportation, and plant.

Dr Rodrigue also celebrated “smart decisions” the district has made, like maintaining “a level of stability” through competitive pricing for energy and energy saving methods, utilizing staff to ensure special education students can “receive the education they need” in district rather than outside of it, and hiring a director of teaching and learning to advance the quality of education.

The superintendent’s presentation highlighted enrollment and its impact on staffing over the years. According to the presentation, next year’s projected enrollment is 4,142, a decrease of 65 students from this year. However, the presentation also highlighted a projected increase of 29 students at the elementary school level and a projected decrease of 73 students at Newtown High School.

Graphs included in the presentation showed a general trend of declining enrollment along with declining staff levels. Dr Robinson said staffing levels and enrollment at NHS are complex due to class choices and scheduling.

“You will see adjustments at the high school as well to reflect these changes,” said the superintendent.

According to an adjusted handout with the presentation, certified staffing requests in next year’s budget add up to 3.74 positions while there are 9.1 full-time equivalent positions in the district being reduced for a net total reduction of $409,771. A different “team” setup is also being planned for one cluster at Newtown Middle School to accommodate enrollment. The superintendent also shared that elementary school principals have discussed having a common schedule that would allow “shared services to exist with more efficiency” between the schools.

The presentation offered average class size projections for next year, and all are within the Board of Education’s guidelines, Dr Rodrigue pointed out.

Dr Rodrigue highlighted Newtown’s current expenditure per pupil is $17,789, which puts Newtown close to the middle of its state determined district reference group (DRG).

In closing, Dr Rodrigue celebrated points about the district, like its “strong social/emotional” programs, its expanding world language program, its growing partnerships with the community, its “strong” athletic department and after school activities, and its “outstanding music program.” She also celebrated the district’s teachers, administrators, and staff.

“It’s for all these reasons that we have made a deliberate effort to sustain our educational system as we know it through a responsible design, as I call it, that will benefit all of our students,” said Dr Rodrigue.

The board also heard individual budget presentations for some of Newtown’s schools at the meeting. A story on the proposed individual school budgets will be in the January 24 print edition of The Newtown Bee. The Board of Education is expected to adopt its budget at a scheduled February 4 meeting.

Superintendent of Schools Dr Lorrie Rodrigue presents her Superintendent's Proposed Operating Budget Plan 2020-21 at the Board of Education's meeting on January 14 at Newtown Municipal Center. As presented the $79,281,774 spending proposal represents a 1.51 percent increase from the current budget. —Bee Photo, Hallabeck
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