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Budget could avoid 'collateral damage'

Published 10:09 am, Friday, January 25, 2013
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"Collateral damage'" was very much on the mind of Superintendent of Schools JeanAnn Paddyfote as she prepared the 2013-14 schools budget for New Milford.

Dr. Paddyfote presented a $60.21 million budget proposal Tuesday to the Board of Education.

She said she could not "justify the collateral damage" that would be caused by cutting her budget proposal below a $2,656,615 -- 4.62 percent -- increase over the current fiscal year.

"Developing this budget was a very hard exercise," Dr. Paddyfote told Board of Education members.

"When I looked at the collateral damage necessary to get to the lower number I had in mind," she added, "it was unconscionable to me to cut that far."

The 4.62 percent increase breaks down as a 3.79 percent increase in operating expenses and an additional $473,115 increase in capital expenses.

A total of $100,000 in the capital budget is undesignated, leaving money to be used for security enhancements still being determined, Dr. Paddyfote explained.

Dr. Paddyfote's proposal was driven by a declining student population and the need to meet new State Department of Education mandates.

State mandates require the district to conform to Common Core State Standards in instruction, which call for an increased emphasis on literacy, math and science.

The mandates also require conducting teacher and administrator evaluations, while providing development opportunities for staff based on the results of those evaluations.

Projected enrollment for the 2013-14 school year is 4,496 students, down 94 students from 2012-13.

In response to these factors, Dr. Paddyfote's budget proposal would cut eight teacher and three tutor position overall from the three elementary schools and Sarah Noble Intermediate School.

It would add three full-time assistant principals and a K-3 grade literacy coach for the three elementary schools.

It would make a partial reduction in Schaghticoke Middle School practical and industrial arts programs, reallocating those funds to increase literacy instruction periods at the middle school and add one science teacher at the high school.

Major budget factors in the budget proposal:

Medical insurance account with a $1.87 million increase;

Special education accounts with a $345,902 increase;

Non-certified salary increases of $151,794;

System for Educator Evaluation and Development expense of $89,925.

The Medical Insurance account saw a 70 percent increase.

That was brought in part by the absence this coming budget year of a $1.15 million allotment received each of the last two school years from the town's Internal Service Fund.

"We all knew ahead of time that the Internal Service Fund infusion had an end time," said Mayor Pat Murphy. "It helped offset all day kindergarten. Now we really have to pay for that."

stuz@newstimes.com; 860-355-7322