District fields questions about $98M budget proposal
DARIEN — As the Darien School District continued its budget discussion, officials fielded questions on the superintendent’s proposed $98 million budget, including concerns about an uptick in the substitutes budget.
On Jan. 6, the Board of Education met for an all-day meeting to go over, line by line, the items in Superintendent Dan Brenner’s budget, which proposes a 2.75 percent increase over the current year mainly due to contractual obligations. Budget discussions continued at a special meeting on Jan. 16 with the superintendent mentioning the school is trying to prepare in case of a loss in state aid, especially in special education.
“There was consensus we need to be particularly conservative because we didn’t want it to be the case where they’d cut dramatically and we’d fall short,” Brenner said. “There is a sense of being conservative because you never know how that plays out.”
Brenner pointed out several districts, including Ridgefield, which had been impacted by under-budgeting for state cuts.
Despite its conservative outlook, Darien is looking at some increases, including when it comes to substitutes. Brenner and Marjorie Cion, the district’s director of human resources, addressed the changes with the school board, explaining there had been an increase in substitute pay and coding changes in the budget.
The district originally budgeted $387,092 for substitutes but increased it to $424,314.
“It’s important to look at the grand total for all substitute line,” Cion said. “If you look at the bottom line, our first budget request was probably not sufficient. If you look at the 2016-2017 school year actual and revised year end and the 2017-2018, that’s much more in line with what we should be requesting. If you think about the fact this year, we’re paying $30 to cover classes as opposed to last year, we’re making inroads.”
Most of the increase seemingly came from an increase in special education subs, which went from a proposed $98,025 to $132,171.
Brenner said that was because special education substitutes now being budgeted as separate items as opposed to part of substitutes for individual schools where they’d been placed in past budgets.
District officials also addressed questions about budgeting for police and fire assistance, high school clubs and councils and the new proposed role of an assistant athletic director. The latter would support the athletic director from mid-August to the end of June as per the current AD’s need. The role would pay $45,000.