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Superintendent Presents 2022-23 Budget For BOE Review



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While sharing that the Newtown school district’s “core” is to inspire students to achieve, Superintendent of Schools Dr Lorrie Rodrigue presented a 2022-23 proposed school budget to the Board of Education (BOE) at its January 18 meeting.

The $83,161,076 spending proposal represents a 4.35% increase from 2021-22.

“The budget always tells a story of who we are, what we value, and what we need,” said Rodrigue.

Tuesday’s meeting was the first for the school board to review the budget before it approves it for further review by the Board of Finance and Legislative Council. It will then go to referendum.

A public hearing on the school budget, before the Board of Education adopts it, is set for January 27 at 7 pm.

All scheduled meetings are announced in The Newtown Bee’s calendar, available in print and online, and on the town’s website, newtown-ct.gov. Additional reporting on the municipal budget proposal, which was presented at the same time Tuesday, appears in today’s edition of The Newtown Bee and at newtownbee.com.

The proposed budget, Rodrigue said, takes into account anticipated class size, the emotional and social well-being of students, and “meaningful” professional development for educators.

Before Rodrigue created her spending proposal, district principals first drafted budget requests with input from different school departments. The administrators’ initial budget requests were $84,107,395, or a 5.53% increase over the current budget. Rodrigue said she reduced that proposal by $946,319, or by 1.18%.

According to the presentation, the 2022-23 budget proposal, as outlined by Rodrigue, promotes adequate staffing for kindergarten to twelfth grade to support the goals and commitments of the district and school board; is mindful of realities of enrollment and class size; considers current academic and social/emotional needs; uses data to employ resources for identifying gaps and improving math and literacy for all students; and expands staff training and professional development.

District leadership goals outlined in the presentation include continuing to develop and implement social/emotional learning strategies that include the use of shared language with staff, students, parents, and the community; implementing concept-based curriculum, including aligned instructional practices and resources; analyzing and utilizing assessment data to drive instructional practices, support, and specialized instruction; continues to promote a positive school climate through the use of district core values; and provides training for staff “aimed at maintaining a safe, inclusive, and equitable learning environment for all students.”

For each of the district leadership goals Rodrigue outlined specific efforts to achieve those goals.

Regarding the first listed goal of continuing to develop and implement social/emotional learning strategies, Rodrigue highlighted the efforts to hire a district coordinator for health and wellness, which will be grant-funded; hiring grant-funded middle and high school Teen Talk Counselors; the grant-funded Hope Squad Advisors and curriculum at Newtown Middle School and Newtown High School; the grant-funded mental health and wellness fair at NHS; the partially grant-funded social workers for Reed Intermediate School and NHS; the family assistance coordinator; the Responsive Classroom, Second Step, and Project Adventure programs; the grant-funded Signs of Suicide program at NMS and NHS; and the district’s Parent Educator Advisory Council (PEAC).

Salary & Benefit Drivers

As outlined by Rodrigue, sources of budget funding are 94.48% from tax revenue, 5.4% from Education Cost Sharing, and just over 1% from other grants, local tuition, parking permits, and miscellaneous fees.

The top budget areas, according to the presentation, are salaries at $53,986,471; employee benefits at $11,955,016; other purchased services at $10,118,326; supplies at $3,372,664; and purchased property services at $2,331,663.

The 2022-23 superintendent’s proposed budget includes 7.5 full-time equivalent staffing requests for $487,195, and 6.18 full-time equivalent staffing positions that were previously funded by grants, for $380,482. Between certified and non-certified staff, proposed reductions in positions are 4.3, for a $184,583 reduction.

While highlighting the other purchased services portion of the budget, Rodrigue shared that the district’s current contract with All-Star Transportation is set to end in 2022 and bids are due to come in at the end of January.

The presentation also shared that building and site maintenance projects are expected to increase by $472,000, and Rodrigue explained the town has funded these projects for the past two years.

There are 4,000 students in Newtown Public Schools, and enrollment is projected to be 4,025 for the 2022-23 school year. Rodrigue said special education enrollment is increasing. Newtown’s current per pupil expenditure is $19,919.

An overview of the superintendent’s proposed $83,161,076 budget shared that $37,380,306 is for regular education, curriculum and technology, and continuing education; $16,972,678 is for special education and pupil personnel; and $28,808,092 is for general services, benefits, transportation, and plant and maintenance.

The superintendent said her budget proposal encompasses a thoughtful design to accomplish the district’s goals.

“Our efforts are for the academic and social/emotional well-being of our students,” Rodrigue said.

After Rodrigue’s presentation, the school board began hearing from district principals. The individual school budgets will be reported in next week’s print edition of the paper, along with further school budget coverage.

Education Reporter Eliza Hallabeck can be reached at eliza@thebee.com.

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