NEW CANAAN — Contractually-obligated increases in salaries and benefits are the driving force behind a proposed school budget hike of about $3 million.

Overall, Superintendent Bryan Luizzi’s proposed operating budget for the 2018-19 school year comes in at $90,663,487, a 3.48 percent increase over the current spending plan.

During the first presentation of the budget at a Jan. 8 Board of Eduction meeting, Luizzi said the hike in salaries is due to contractual obligations, as well as teachers going up in salary grid progressions, especially as many pursue advanced degrees.

“The best teachers are those that continually learn,” Luizzi said. “It’s reflective of such a strong ethos in our faculty.”

Contractual increases make up the nearly 80 percent of the increase, about $2.8 million. Salaries and benefits, along with contracted and property services, are some of the biggest drivers in an otherwise conservative budget year, the superintendent explained.

Upcoming negotiations and an uptick in the district intern program are upping contract prices, while recent claims history is leading the district to add more for their benefits budget, additional factors in the $3,045,081 year-over-year budget increase. Finally, the property services line item went up, credited to more expensive software licensing and network fees.

The spending plan proposes the cut of three full-time staff members (two in fifth grade and one at the elementary level), but also budgets for an additional elementary position if enrollment changes.

It further suggests adding four full-time staff members — three certified and one non-certified — for the proposed alternative school program, planned for eight to 12 students who need academic assistance along with the therapeutic components of a day program. The alternative school program is estimated to cost $185,000, but the district expects to save about $122,000 by bringing students back to be educated in district.

“It’s not something you necessarily broadcast cause it’s for a small group of students,” Luizzi said about the alternative school program.

The superintendent said he’d like to replace the current visual performing arts supervisory assistant with a lighting/sound specialist for the middle and high school auditoriums. A new part-time teacher for the world language program at the high school based on higher enrollment brings the net increase in staffing district wide to 2.6 FTE (full-time equivalent).

Other budget initiatives include a new media management system, next-generation science standard materials and software resources.

On the flip side of the balance sheet, the budget suggests a decrease in the cost of supplies, thanks in part to lower textbook needs. The district also anticipates paying less for out-of-district placement due to students aging out or returning to New Canaan schools.

Other savings come from streamlining and consolidating maintenance services, processing district payroll in house and buying fewer paper towels thanks to the use of air hand dryers.

Luizzi’s proposal also includes a requested $2,981,023 for capital projects.

Major drivers in the capital budget include replacing three special education vehicles, oil tank replacements and a sound system for the high school auditorium that was previously deferred. Finally, there is a request for $140,000 for playground restoration at East School.

The school board will continue discussing the proposed spending plan at their next meeting, Jan. 22.

ekayata@hearstmediact.com; @erin_kayata

More Information

Learn more

For more specifics about the superintendent’s proposed budget, visit ncps-k12.org and click the Board of Education tab.