Tuesday night marked the official beginning of the budget season in West Hartford with the presentation of the superintendent's proposed general fund budget to the Board of Education.
The 2013-2014 budget proposed by Dr. Karen List, a total of $140,055,899, represents an increase of only 0.93 percent ($1,286,671) over the 2012-2013 West Hartford Public Schools budget of $138,769,229. List said that the less than 1 percent increase is "the lowest increase in over 30 years."
The majority of the school budget is for "people," List said in her presentation, pointing out that 86 percent is for salaries and benefits, and 85 percent of those salaries go to employees who directly serve students.
The majority of the proposed budget is also a "roll forward" budget – keeping everything as is – for a total increase of $900,000 or 0.65 percent.
Changes to the roll forward budget include $2.49 million (2.74 percent) in salary increases, with most employees receiving a step increase and others getting less than 2 percent, List said. The budget also reflects the loss of IDEA and Education Jobs Funds, said List.
Medical expenses will decrease by $2.14 million (10.17 percent) due to lower health insurance claims. Pension costs will increase ($410,000, 11.6 percent), tuition expenses for inter-district magnet schools and special education outplacement will decrease by $117,000 (5.21 percent), and other expenses, the largest of which are transportation costs resulting from the new contract, account for $320,000 extra.
The short list of changes to the superintendent's budget include a net decrease of $110,000 caused by enrollment changes – adding one full-time employee to both the elementary level and pupil services, and reducing high school staffing by 3.5 employees.
Security upgrades will add one full-time and two-part time security officers at a total cost of $77,000. Staffing changes necessitated by implementing the state-mandated new teacher evaluation plans and Common Core State Standards add $196,000 to the budget.
Other changes, including an increase in substitute teacher pay from $75 to $85 per day and a data warehouse system.
The additions to the budget from these changes amount to a total of $390,000 or 0.28 percent.
West Hartford's spending per pupil of $13,075 currently ranks 115 out of 169 districts in Connecticut. "We spend very efficiently, but our student performance is the highest ever," List said, pointing out that standardized test scores have continued to rise.
List said the proposed budget is "efficient, strategic, and accountable."
"This budget will have have a minor impact on taxes while maintaining core programs and services ... and positioning our children and the community for the future."
The complete budget is available for review on the West Hartford Public School's website. In addition, residents are invited to comment on the budget by using the electronic suggestion box email@example.com.
The Board of Education will hold budget workshops on March 13 and 14 at 7 p.m. A public hearing is scheduled for March 27 at 7 p.m., and will be followed by a final workshop.
Board members are seeking dialogue with the community through the PTOs, and have already scheduled sessions with about half of the schools.
The Board of Education will adopt its budget on April 9, and the Town Council is scheduled to vote on the overall budget on April 23.