Superintendent backs full-day K for Shelton in school budget plan

The Shelton education budget would go up almost 6% in the next fiscal year if a recommended budget by School Supt. Freeman Burr should be approved.

Burr unveiled his recommendation at a recent Board of Education (BOE) meeting. It initially called for a 6.8% increase, but that should be lowered to 5.8% by moving about $550,000 in items to a capital budget request.

The BOE is expected to vote on Burr’s recommendation in the next week or two, and may make certain changes. The BOE budget request then would move to the mayor, Board of Apportionment and Taxation,  and Board of Aldermen for action.

The upcoming 2014-15 fiscal year will begin on July 1, and it will cover the next school year.

Full-day K cost: $948,000 in year one

Burr’s proposal includes $948,000 to start a full-day kindergarten program. This represents the increased cost from the current half-day kindergarten.

The full-day K breakdown would be $618,000 for salaries and benefits, $200,000 for furniture and equipment (this is one of the items that could be switched to the capital budget), $120,000 for books and supplies, and $10,000 for curriculum and training.

The current overall BOE budget is $65.6 million, and a 5.8% hike would increase the budget by $3.8 million to $69.4 million.

BOE Chairman Mark Holden said an increase under $4 million could be supported by other city officials. “I think that’s a much more palatable number, and it includes full-day kindergarten,” Holden said.

BOE member Win Oppel agreed. “I don’t think a $4-million request is unreasonable, considering what we’re trying to do going forward,” Oppel said.

Rollover budget cost is 3%

Burr began his budget presentation by showing how a rollover budget — or a status quo budget plus changes required by contracts — would go up by 3%, or $1.95 million, in the next year.

The rollover budget increases are for employee salaries and benefits as well as transportation costs.

The new teachers’ contract that takes effect in 2014-15 provides a total 9% raise over the next three years, but includes some givebacks, such as a longer instructional school day and a switch to HSA health insurance plans.

Adds tutors, psychologists and counselors

Burr’s proposal would add a few tutors and teachers districtwide, mostly for special education. At Perry Hill School, an assistant principal would be added but two teaching positions would be eliminated.

His budget also includes additions in psychologists, counselors and media specialists as well as some other positions.

Holden said while he sees the need for an assistant principal at Perry Hill, he’s uncertain it can be done because of the cost of implementing full-day kindergarten. “I think some day we may be revisiting that,” he said.

Burr said not having a Perry Hill assistant principal could lead to having to hire a consultant to help with teacher evaluations, which is a new state requirement that is expected to be a time-consuming task for school building administrators.

Media specialists and school libraries

Holden also said some people may question the request for 1.5 new media specialists, based on past resistance to similar requests.

Burr said adding media specialists would allow school libraries to be open more, and emphasized that the duties of a media specialist today are more academically integrated than those of a school librarian in the past.

Holden and some other BOE member indicated they expect to receive support for adding counselors and psychologists, particularly in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Instructional supplies

BOE members also discussed the request for more funds for instructional supplies, pointing out this line item has been underspent in some recent years.

In response, school officials said there is a strong need in particular to supply color printer cartridges to classrooms.