School leaders give the nod to $59 million plan
Updated 11:12 am, Wednesday, February 1, 2012
All-day kindergarten and summer school for struggling readers.
An engineering preparatory course at New Milford High School.
More interactive whiteboards for classrooms.
Those are some of the highlights of a nearly $59 million plan unanimously endorsed by the Board of Education after a final, two-hour session on Jan. 25 about district needs for the 2012-13 school year.
The school board's budget is the same dollar amount as the one proposed by Superintendent of Schools JeanAnn Paddyfote, representing a 3.08 percent spending increase over the current year.
The proposed budget will now move forward to the Town Council and Board of Fianance before going before the town's voters.
"I think this is an excellent budget," board member Thomas McSherry said. "No matter what you do, a full 1 percent of this budget is health insurance. So it's more impressive to me that the superintendent was still able to keep everything intact."
The only change in the budget was the $2,610 addition of two high school department chairman positions rather than head teachers for social studies and math, costs offset by reductions in curriculum guides.
Efforts to get rid of pay-to-play sports at the high school, to halt enrollment of new students for the Danbury magnet school and hire a consultant to promote online technology in the district were all defeated.
All in all, board members seemed satisfied this budget is as lean as it can be without affecting needed programs.
Board chairwoman Wendy Faulenbach said this budget is possible because of compromises made by town unions in recent years and the recent retirement incentive package covering costs for 12 new positions -- nine for all-day kindergarten, two district-wide literacy coaches and a math coach.
In her opening presentation, Dr. Paddyfote said she feels the plan she composed with her administrative staff provides much-needed programs and equipment while recognizing the economic climate of the community.
For two of the last three years, the schools had no increases. Last year, the schools enjoyed a gain because the town's medical reserve money offset $1 million of those costs.
"I can't find a cut," said school board member Lynette Celli Rigdon, experiencing third budget season.
Ms. Faulenbach agreed, noting there are "no more rabbits in the hat" to reach a lower dollar amount.
"I think it's good budget. I support it 100 percent," she said.