NEW CANAAN — Pointing to the district’s prowess in the arts, athletics and academics, Superintendent Bryan Luizzi said a 3.81 percent budget increase is worth the investment for the 2017-2018 school year.

The district, which is number two in scoring on the Smart Balancing testing in its district reference group, is requesting an additional $3.2 million for the upcoming school year, bringing the budget from $86.2 million to $89.5 million.

The majority of the increase comes from a $2 million payroll increase, something Luizzi said is the result of the district needing to stay competitive and investing in its employees. There is a $777,581 increase in benefits for a similar reason.

“Education is a people business,” he said. “The majority goes to staffing costs.”

Luizzi said part of the increase is also due to contractual increases and requests for additional staffing.

More Information

Town of New Canaan - Budget Meeting Schedule 2017

Board of Education Meetings

Jan. 9, 7 p.m. - NCHS Wagner Room Session: Superintendent's Budget Presentation

Jan. 23, 7 p.m. - NCHS Wagner Room Session: BOE Review and Recommendation of Budget

Board of Selectman Meetings

Jan. 24, 9 a.m. - Town Hall, Board Room Session: EMS, DPW, HHS, Land Use, Gen. Govt., BOE

Jan. 26, 9 a.m. - Town Hall, Board Room Session: Lib., Fire, Police, Animal Ctrl., Emerg. Mmgt., Recreation

Jan. 31 at 9 a.m. - Town Hall, Board Room Session: Review and Recommendation

Board of Finance Meetings

Feb. 7, 7 p.m. - BOF/TC Joint @ Town Hall, Meeting Room Session: BOE

Feb. 9, 7 p.m. - Town Hall, Meeting Room Session: EMS, DPW, HHS, Land Use, Gen. Govt.

Feb. 13, 7 p.m. - Town Hall, Meeting Room Session: Lib., Fire, Police, Animal Ctrl., Emerg. Mgmt., Recreation

Feb. 16, 7 p.m. - Town Hall, Meeting Room Session: BOE, Regular Meeting and Budget Review

Feb. 28, 7 p.m. - Town Hall, Meeting Room Session: Budget Follow Up and Review

March 7, 7 p.m. - Town Hall, Meeting Room Session: Budget Public Hearing and Review

March 9, 7 p.m. - Town Hall, Meeting Room Session: Vote on Budget and Regular Meeting

Town Council Meetings

Feb. 7, 7 p.m. - BOF/TC Joint @ Town Hall, Meeting Room Session: BOE

March 15, 7 p.m. - Town Hall, Meeting Room Session: BOE

March 16, 7 p.m. - Town Hall, Meeting Room Session: EMS, DPW, HHS, Land Use, Gen. Govt.

March 22, 7 p.m. - Town Hall, Meeting Room Session: Lib., Fire, Police, Animal Ctrl., Emerg. Mgmt., Recreation

March 29, 7 p.m. - Town Hall, Meeting Room Session: Budget Public Hearing and Overall Review

April 5, 7 p.m. - Town Hall, Meeting Room Session: Vote on Budget and Regular Meeting

The district’s largest class of 381 students is moving to the ninth grade, leading to a request for one new teacher for each of five major subject areas. They’re also looking to add a full-time ESL teacher and case manager. Currently, there is one ESL teacher supporting 52 students with a network of tutors.

“By servicing [ESL students] well, we’re able to acclimate them quicker and they can better take advantage of what they have here in school,” Luizzi said.

Board members questioned whether districts of similar sizes had similar support, but Luizzi said other districts he’s consulted have said they’d also benefit from a second ESL employee.

Additional staffing requests include a math specialist and a custodian, both at Saxe Middle School. The new custodian is needed to accommodate the new wing, set to be completed this fall.

The total new staffing costs come to $232,907.

The district will also be adding an in-house speech and language specialist who was previously contracted, leading to a decrease in contracted services budget. The rest of the contracted services budget will go toward using interns as substitutes and an athletic trainer, something Luizzi said he feels “is good going forward to maintain safety for students.” The intern program, which employs teaching students, is also a good way for the district to support future educators while scoping out potential teachers for the district.

The district will also be saving when it comes to their supply budget, thanks to cuts in the elementary schools in reductions in textbooks, technology equipment supplies and instructional supplies based on program needs. They’ll also be saving on heating fuel and electricity costs.

Board members expressed concerns over the increase in the transportation budget due to contract increases, as well as a loss of credit due to a payment shift. New Canaan previously received a $31,000 credit for paying their transportation costs early twice a year. Now, the town is requesting the district pay in 12 installations, adding the loss of credit from the twice-yearly payments to the budget.

“I’m disheartened by the request to go back to 12 payments,” said Dionna Carlson, chair of the board. “I guess there’s probably some cost of capital and interest rates rising, but $31,000 goes a long way toward paying for the custodial ask. I would like to make sure we push back on that. I don’t think it’s an insignificant amount of money we’re losing.”

The board ultimately approved the budget first read after going through capital expenses that had been discussed last month. Major capital project proposals included playground restorations, new carpeting in the main offices of the elementary schools, masonry repairs at Saxe and new carpet in the library and Wagner Room at the high school. The district is also requesting to replace three special education vans. The total capital requests budget comes to $4 million.

ekayata@hearstmediact.com; @erin_kayata