Milford schools superintendent proposes $95M budget
Milford School Supt. Dr. Anna Cutaia’s first budget as school superintendent is a spending proposal of $95 million for the 2019-2020 school year, an increase of 1.89 percent over the current year’s budget of $93 million.
The budget, presented to the Board of Education Monday, Jan. 14, cuts six full-time staff positions through attrition because of declining enrollment and includes money for a foreign language program, likely with Spanish, in kindergarten and first grade. Milford students now start learning a foreign language in grade six.
“While only in my position as superintendent of schools for a few months, I have had the opportunity to hear from stakeholders about what makes Milford great, as well as what can make us even greater,” Cutaia said in a written message to the Board of Education, which she attached to her budget plan. “I believe this budget represents the continuation of established accomplishments for our schools while at the same time starts to illuminate the next level of work.”
Within two years, Cutaia said, she hopes to have world language taught in all kindergarten through grade five classrooms, to match the upper grades courses where foreign language is currently taught.
“We know that the earlier you get to a child in language development the more likely it will stick,” Cutaia said. “And that is the best time in brain development research to introduce a second language.”
Other initiatives include providing students with Chromebooks, starting with grades five through nine, using the district’s already purchased Chromebooks; investing in new equipment, including new robots for the robotics classes; and to work with Aced My Interview, a local company, to provide students with interview experience for college and job interview prep.
“Schools have been using it this year and we look forward to ensuring this opportunity for all juniors in the future,” Cutaia said.
She also is requesting $27,483 for an additional school security guard for The Academy, money for a fitness room at Harborside to match that of the other two middle schools and after-school sports clinics at the middle schools.
Replacing classroom furniture, starting with three classrooms in each middle school is also in the works as part of a plan to “revision” classroom space, with furniture that is movable, comfortable and makes a classroom more free flowing and flexible.
“Imagine yourself in a school environment for 6.5 hours and having to sit in that desk-attached-to-chair,” Cutaia said. “We’re proposing to move away from that rigid structure of furniture to a more flexible structure of furniture.”
Cuts include elimination of 6.1 full time positions — 2.7 certified positions and 3.4 non-certified — for a savings of $236,700; $120,000 in substitute teacher savings because of fewer meetings and training, and other savings from replacing a database and saving money on insurances and telecommunications.
Budget increases are driven by contractual raises and rising health care and retirement costs, the superintendent said.
“Our greatest investment for the betterment of our students is in the people we hire,” she wrote in her budget presentation package. “Therefore, it is no surprise that 77.9 percent of the total budget is made up of salaries and benefits. While there is a net reduction of 6.1 FTE positions, overall salary accounts increased due to contractual obligations.”
The Board of Education will discuss the proposal during budget workshops at 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday in the Board of Education meeting room in the Parson’s Government Center.
The board was scheduled to vote on the plan at the Jan. 23 meeting, on Jan. 24 if the board needs more time.
The Board of Finance will hold a public hearing and then start reviewing the budget on dates still to be determined, before reviewing and voting on a school and city budget plan.
The Board of Aldermen will hold a public hearing and review the spending plans before adopting a new budget around the middle of May.