New Milford proposes 3.17% school budget increase

Interim Superintendent Joshua Smith.
Interim Superintendent Joshua Smith.File photo

NEW MILFORD — Maintaining resonable class sizes and providing enough counselors to provide support to students were among the priorities in the school district’s proposed 2016-17 budget.

Interim Superintendent Joshua Smith has proposed a $63.1 million budget, which is $1.9 million or 3.17 percent more than this year’s allocation.

“The budget request is designed to support and maintain the instructional programs and the needed staffing levels to continue the district’s focus on instructional improvement, expanded mental health services, and college and career readiness opportunities,” Smith said last week.

Contractual obligations, health insurance adjustments and other benefits account for 2.97 percent of the 3.17 percent increase.

“The district has worked hard to prioritize initiatives, find efficiencies and reallocate resources in order to continue improving the education we provide to students while maintaining a fiscally conservative budget proposal,” Smith said.

The administration is proposing a $1,941,815 or 3.17 percent increase in operating expenses.

Salaries and benefits comprise 75 percent of the budget, with a $792,743 increase in salaries and $1,027,106 increase in benefits. The previous year’s offset to health costs by the town created a $400,000 deficit in the 2016-17 budget. The town has drawn on the Internal Service Fund in past years to offset the self-insured insurance that it carries for personnel.

“It has been past practice for the town to offset our insurance cost,” Smith said. “But we can’t count on that so our health costs are being projected at a 12.53 percent increase rather than a 5.95 percent one.”

Budget priorities include maintaining reasonable class sizes, with 17 to 19 students in kindergarten classrooms to 22 students in grades six through eight. Access to reliable technology would be improved with updated computer labs, updated network infrastructure and the purchase of 20 Smart Boards in a replacement cycle.

Services will be increased at the elementary level a kindergarten to second-grade counselor added to each elementary school to address the social/emotional needs of students.

“The counselor dividing time between Northville and Hill & Plain schools has been a positive resource and having a full-time counselor at each school is an investment in our children,” said Susan Murray, principal at Northville School. “We are seeing more complex social and emotional needs in kindergarten, first and second graders. We are laying the foundation for their educational future and their success at this age is based on how they feel about school.”

College opportunities would continue to be funded in this budget with PSATs for all sophomores and 50 percent of the cost of each Advanced Placement test covered.

Access to athletic programs at the high school level would continue at no cost to families, with funding retained to avoid pay-to-play.

The Board of Education budget deliberations continue Jan. 20, Jan. 26 and Jan. 27 with a vote on adoption at the Jan. 27 meeting.; 203-731-3352