Superintendent proposes 1.39% budget increase for next school year

School Supt. Dr. Elizabeth Feser presented her 2018-2019 budget plan to the Board of Education Monday night, coming in with a 1.39% increase over the current year, for a total spending plan of $93.23 million.

The proposal increases spending $1.28 million over the current $91.95 million budget, the bulk of that coming from salary increases because salaries are such a large part of the budget. “Salaries for all employees will increase on average by 2.5 to 3.5%, which includes contractual step increases and minimum wage increases,” according to a budget packet presented Monday night.

Several new requests, coupled with reductions in various areas, have produced what Feser calls a very good budget, one that she said continues to improve education in Milford while being mindful of the economy.

The request is slightly higher than the past two years, when Feser presented plans with increases of less than 1%, but next school year she said enrollment, which has been declining, will drop less than it had been.

Among additions to the budget, the superintendent is proposing to add one language teacher at a cost of $60,000 so world language can be introduced in grade six.

“Students would explore French for one trimester and Spanish in another trimester,” she said. Studying a foreign language currently begins in seventh grade.

She also wants to introduce a civic and global engagement pathway, which she said will not increase costs because courses already exist to fulfill that pathway. The pathway is being promoted by the state Department of Education, and will allow students to earn a Global Engagement Certificate if they earn at least seven credits in globally focussed coursework, participate in at least one globally focused extra curricular activity and complete a global service learning project.

This will make the third “pathway” at the high school level, the others being computer science and entrepreneurship/business management.

Because the state has adopted new science and social studies standards, the superintendent is also asking for $75,000 to pay a team of teachers to write new curriculum over the summer.

Also, she is proposing the return to a centralized enrichment program because of declining enrollment, so $22,772 is being requested to pay for transportation from the student’s home school to the enrichment program site.

Feser is also asking for another $40,000 to pay for an additional school resource officer. There are four officers now, one at each high school and two split between the three middle schools and The Academy. The board has asked for an additional school resource officer for the past few years, but each time the city has not supported the idea by allocating $40,000 on the city side of the budget. The school board pays half the salary and the city the other half.

There is also an additional $27,000 in the spending plan for security enhancements.

The superintendent is asking for an additional .5 custodian position, $20,331, at West Shore Middle School because that school has gone from 73,190 square feet to 82,225 square feet with the addition, which is scheduled to be complete late spring.

A .5 custodian position was added at East Shore Middle School when that school was enlarged.

Feser is also asking for $77,000 for an asset management system, which would inventory computers, desks, boilers and all the other things in the city’s schools, and help administrators schedule upgrades; and $4,800 to reduce the cost that families pay for their daughters to participate in girls hockey.

To help offset increases, Feser’s plan calls for cutting three regular teaching positions to save $180,000. She and Chief Operations Officer James Richetelli Jr. said that will not mean layoffs. While positions have been cut in the past, those are usually absorbed by retirements. Richetelli said typically 18 teachers retire each year.

There are also savings planned in utilities, $71,754; transportation, $78,640; miscellaneous support, $99,717; educational supplies, $63,464, and equipment including furniture and computers, $103,074.

Feser said that in summary, she is proposing $326,903 in new expenditures, and $596,649 in cuts to various line items.

She said the budget is about “sustaining and simultaneously strengthening the school system.”

While other school districts in the state, including Stratford, are facing serious budget woes, Feser and Richetelli said Milford is in good shape, largely because of planning and help from City Hall.

The Board of Education will hold several workshops to discuss the spending plan before voting on a figure to forward to the Board of Finance. The final figure will be set by the Board of Aldermen in May.