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Proposed schools 2014-15 budget sees 5.32% increase

Published 10:55 am, Thursday, January 16, 2014
  • Board mmember David Martens listens during budget discussion at the Tuesday, Jan. 14 Board of Education meeting in Darien, Conn. Photo: Megan Spicer / Darien News
    Board mmember David Martens listens during budget discussion at the Tuesday, Jan. 14 Board of Education meeting in Darien, Conn. Photo: Megan Spicer

 

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Darien is facing a proposed

5.32 percent increase, or $4.43 million more, in the school budget for 2014-15.

The major drivers in the net operating budget of $87,652,090 are for personnel, transportation, fuel and utilities, insurance and benefits and out-of-district placement tuition, according to interim Superintendent Lynne Pierson at Tuesday's Board of Education meeting.

The total projected expenditures for the 2014-15 budget are $90,937,152 with $3,285,062 in expected revenue.

The 2013-14 budget is $83,224,929, which represented a 4.05 percent increase over the 2012-13 budget.

The personnel increases account for $1,833,534 of the $4.43 million increase in the 2014-15 budget.

"There are fixed costs that have already been established in those contracts," Pierson said regarding staffing contracts that were agreed upon in earlier years.

Personnel costs represent 64 percent, or $58,199,777, of the proposed budget.

However, the greatest increase to the budget comes from the operating budget, which has a 12.45 percent increase over the 2013-14 budget. The operating budget increases include: software and maintenance; legal fees; textbooks; transportation; strategic planning process and Board of Education policy updates; teaching supplies; maintenance and repairs; and out-of-district placements.

Out-of-district placements account for $849,412 for the total operating budget increase of $1,356,427. Students are placed in schools out of district when the services that they need to succeed in school cannot be provided in Darien. Legally, the Darien schools must pay for this outplacement. Parents may also opt to send their child to an out-of-district school.

Pierson proposed an increase of 10.6 full-time employees, which would impact the budget $678,177.

One of the additional staff members is a director of human resources. Currently, Darien Public Schools has one full-time staff member in human resources.

"However, the high-stakes nature these days of running an organization with over 700 employees, all of whom have to be recruited, hired, retained, while meeting certification requirements of the state, teacher evaluation requirements and a wide variety of required aspects of employment, in my opinion, would warrant the district to strongly consider adding a full-time director of human resources whose presence would strengthen and make more robust that kind of a function for the school system," Pierson said.

Ellen Dunn, Darien High School principal, also requested an additional campus monitor, at a cost of $36,901, at the high school, bringing the total number to five. When the high school did away with a volunteer to man the front desk, a campus monitor was assigned there, Dunn told the board. As a result, the school now only has three campus monitors in the hallways instead of the four it previously had.

The other proposed staff increases are two people in the information technology department and one staff member for information support personnel.

The district is in the third year of its five-year technology upgrade and budgeted for $413,000 in the 2014-15 budget.

"Some districts lose passion for technology plans as they move forward," Pierson said. "I'm pleased to see that Darien has not."

Pierson also noted that $100,000 is requested for curriculum needs such as the support of the Common Core State Standards, new teacher evaluations, the development of a world language program in the elementary schools and the purchase of textbooks that will support the development of math and world language programs at Middlesex Middle School.

Director of Finance Michael Feeney reported that the Darien schools are expecting a $725,683 deficit in the 2013-14 budget, primarily from the long-term substitute account. The trend for the past several years, Feeney said, is that the district has under budgeted for the long-term substitute account.

"It seems to be somewhat of a moving target," Feeney said, adding that the district will make an appropriate budget adjustment for the 2014-15 budget.

In order to make up the deficit from the 2013-14 budget, the board has been in communication with the Board of Finance about seeking a special appropriation from the town to make up the shortfall, Feeney said.

mspicer@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6583; @Meg_DarienNews